Archive for April 2005

Shooting target pistols with one hand

By B.B. Pelletier

It’s rare to see someone hold a handgun with one hand anymore. Yet the one-handed hold used to be the most popular way to shoot. In official target events, it’s still the only hold allowed. Here are some tips.

Tip 1 – stand like a pitcher
A major-league baseball pitcher orients his feet to control the direction of his pitch. So do handgunners. By placing the feet just so, you can control the left and right orientation of the barrel so your shot placement will be inside a 12″ span at the target distance of 10 meters (which is close to 33 feet). Twelve inches sounds like a lot, but we’ll reduce that in the next step.

Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. The foot on the side of your shooting hand (right foot for right-handed shooters) should be in front of your other foot so your non-shooting side is angled about 45 to 60 degrees away from the target. Don’t measure angles; just do the following.

Close your eyes and point the finger of your shooting hand toward the target. Don’t guess where the target is; just point your finger in the most natural direction. Open your eyes and notice whether the target is in front of your finger or to one side. If it’s to one side, adjust the foot on the non-shooting side either backward or forward to bring your entire body around until you are pointing naturally at the target. Close your eyes and try it again. When your finger is pointing at the target when your eyes open, that’s where your feet should be.

Tip 2 – grip the handgun the same way EVERY TIME
Open your shooting hand and insert the handgun with the other hand, jamming the grip deep into the web between your thumb and index finger. Wrap your middle finger only around the front of the grip frame, then let your thumb and other two fingers come to rest lightly against the pistol grip. Now raise the shooting arm up in front of you and lower it until you can see the front sights. Are the sights in line with the target? If not, shift your feet until the handgun comes into line with the target as you lower it from a raised position. When you are aligned, you have acquired the correct stance and grip for one-handed target shooting.

Once your feet are planted correctly, the proper grip controls the gun to such an extent that the latitude, side to side, is only a few inches at 10 meters. Close your eyes, raise the pistol and point it toward the target. When you open your eyes, the pistol should be pointed directly at the target. If not, make small feet adjustments until the pistol is aligned with the target.

Tip 3 – hold on target for no more than 5 seconds
This is hard and takes practice. The worst thing you can do is hold longer than 5 seconds. You’ll end up “sniping” at the target instead of smoothly squeezing the trigger until the sear releases. All good target airguns have a dry-fire feature for practicing this technique. Use it!

How to pick a spring rifle

By B.B. Pelletier

Every airgunner, and I do mean EVERY, has asked this question at one time or another, “What should I look for in a spring air rifle?” After a few transactions and some experience with various models, you will get the hang of it, but a new person always finds the world of spring guns very puzzling.

A spring rifle must be COCKED
Cocking effort should be a major deciding factor. A lot of shooters want all the power they can get, but they forget (or perhaps don’t appreciate) that spring rifles have to be cocked. That usually means you have to supply the effort! The most powerful rifles, such as the Webley Patriot Export, usually take the greatest effort to cock. A Patriot takes about 50 lbs. of effort to lever the barrel down to the cocked position.

In contrast, a Webley Tomahawk will be much easier to cock. The rifle is only two-thirds as powerful, but do you really need the extra power? The Tomahawk is twice as powerful as any spring rifle made before 1970.

There ARE some compromises!
You want power AND easy cocking? Of course you do. Then look at the Diana RWS model 48 and its dressier cousin, the Diana RWS model 52. The sidelever cocking link reduces effort and still delivers a lot of power. It’s not as much as the Patriot, but the effort is 17 lbs. less, so you can do a lot more shooting.

The TX 200 MkIII isn’t as powerful as the Diana RWS 48 and 52, but it is even easier to cock. ALL the rifles I’ve mentioned are wonderfully accurate if you do your part. But, they’re not cheap.

When the price REALLY counts
If money is in short supply, don’t settle for a cheap gun – or you’ll never be happy with it and possibly sour yourself on breakbarrels in general. Buying used or remanufactured guns or checking the sale items is a great way to save money on a quality breakbarrel rifle.

The springer that requires NO work!
For the diehard couch potatoes, there is a perfect spring air rifle from Rutten. The Airstar Electric is cocked by a motor! The high-torque motor sounds like an impact wrench and is definitely not for the hunter, but it does relieve you of the need to cock the mainspring. There are only two of these remaining at Pyramyd, so jump if you really want one.

In a future post, I’ll go over the differences between the various cocking systems.

Does cocking a breakbarrel gun bend the barrel over time?

By B.B. Pelletier

The myth goes like this – “If you cock an airgun by its barrel, surely the barrel will bend over time.” This is an urban legend and is completely false! But, it illustrates that some shooters are thinking about the strength of the barrel, and that can lead to some dangerous “experiments” that could bend a barrel in an instant.

Airgun barrels are strong!
To prove my point about the strength of airgun barrels, consider this. A Haenel barrel on a breakbarrel model made in the 1930s is still straight today after hundreds of thousands of shots and even some accidents over the years. What about a Diana model 65 target rifle used by a shooting club? Still in service after several MILLION shots by hundreds of club members since the gun was new in 1970, the barrel remains straight enough to win an important match. The mainspring may have been replaced 20 times by now and all the bluing has been worn off the barrel at the front sight where hands have grabbed to cock over the years, but the barrel is still as straight as the day it left the factory. Breakbarrels don’t bend with normal usage.

It’s EASY to bend a breakbarrel simply by mistreating it!
By deliberately mistreating an airgun, the barrel can be bent in an instant. What some “curious” owners do is break open the barrel, then fire the gun with the barrel broken fully open to see how fast the mainspring can close the barrel. Sounds like great fun, huh?

When the barrel closes with the force of more than 100 lbs. of spring behind it, the end of the barrel where the front sight it mounted wants to continue moving long after the breech slams into its locked position. The result is an upward bend in the barrel at the point where the barrel passes through the breechblock. You can achieve the same effect by running rapidly through a narrow doorway holding a stepladder sideways. The Three Stooges demonstrated that numerous times. Judging from what I see on America’s Funniest Home Videos, there are still some idiots dumb enough to try it today!

Shooting with the barrel broken open is DANGEROUS!
A rapidly closing barrel will cut off fingers! People have been hit in the forehead by front sights when the rifle wrenches out of their grasp from closing rapidly. And half the time the stock splinters, in addition to bending the barrel. Stocks cost nearly half the price of the entire gun, so there are several good reasons to NOT TRY this DANGEROUS experiment.

The barrel-bending myth helps sales of sidelevers and underlevers
There is nothing wrong with either a sidelever or an underlever cocking mechanism, as long as you understand that both add weight to the gun. The breakbarrel will always be the most efficient design from a weight standpoint. Some people just will not accept that an airgun barrel can be strong enough to cock a gun millions of times without bending. I wonder how many bottle openers these people wear out in their lifetimes? Or crowbars? Or shovels?


The powerful Webley Patriot is a breakbarrel with
no barrel-bending problems, despite a heavy mainspring!

Exhibit A – The Webley Patriot Export
The Webley Patriot Export breakbarrel is one of the most powerful spring rifles in existence, and it uses the barrel to cock the gun! A force of approximately 50 lbs. is required each and every time the rifle is cocked; yet, the Patriot barrel remains rifle-straight indefinitely. Why? Because they made it that way.
 
Breakbarrel rifles don’t bend their barrels over time. As long as you use them as intended, they will last for centuries.

The differences between .177 & .22 – and which jobs they do best

By B.B. Pelletier

There are two other smallbore pellet calibers, but in terms of sales and recognition, .177 and .22 are the major ones. For three-quarters of a century, .22 was the sales leader in America, while .177 lead in Europe nearly all that time. In the 1970s, when many British and European models started being imported to this country in large numbers, the preference for .177 came along with them and now the U.S. is in line with the rest of the airgun world. But newcomers often ask, “What are the significant differences between these two calibers, and why should I care?”

In any airgun, .22 is always more powerful
This is true irrespective of the type of powerplant, length of barrel or anything else. Twenty-two delivers about 20% more punch in any given airgun. The technical specifications for the Air Arms Pro Sport illustrate that. Instead of giving velocities for the guns, Pyramyd gives the muzzle energy, allowing you to clearly see the difference in power.

The same difference holds true for all other models of air rifles and pistols. When the velocity is given, the .22 is always slower, but we should not fail to appreciate that it shoots a pellet weighing twice as much. That’s where the extra power comes from.

Accuracy is the same for both calibers – sometimes!
This fact is not as clear as the power issue. You see, sometimes a manufacturer will use a barrel of different quality for one caliber. For example, sometimes a 12-groove barrel will be used for a .177 while a six-groove barrel is used for the .22-caliber barrel in the same gun. There is no inherent accuracy advantage for any particular number of grooves – just the fact that the barrels are made differently allows for the possibility that one will be more accurate than the other.

.177 is the caliber for 10-meter target guns – period!
Only .177 is the caliber accepted by all international 10-meter shooting organizations. That means all target guns are made in that caliber and no other. The extra care given to the construction of target guns ensures that .177 target airguns are the most accurate. There are no .22-caliber equivalents.

.22 caliber dominates the hunting scene
While is is possible to hunt with a .177, .22 caliber is by far the favorite. Sometimes, a .177 pellet will pass through the game animal without doing enough severe damage to stop the animal. Hunters who have had their quarry run away after a solid hit often switch to .22 immediately thereafter.

Even a .22 pellet is no guarantee of a humane kill. The pellet still has to hit a vital spot, and even then there may be some running or thrashing after the hit – but hunters notice a decided advantage when they use .22 caliber.

.177 pellets are cheaper
There is a big advantage to the smaller caliber here. Not only are there more pellets to choose from in .177, they also come more to a box and cost a significant amount less. Look at Crosman Premiers in .177 compared to Premiers in .22 for a comparison. If you look at the pellet count per box, you’ll see that you get exactly twice as many .177s as .22s for the same price. That’s a dramatic example, for sure, because the usual price difference is more like 30%, or so. If you plan on doing a lot of target shooting and general plinking, .177 is your best bet.

I hope this short discussion helps some people make the choice between calibers. In the end, of course, either caliber can satisfy most shooting needs.

Rock & roll with an airsoft submachinegun

By B.B. Pelletier

You owe it to yourself to check out the M11 A1 by KSC, an airsoft replica of an Ingram M11 A1 .380-caliber submachine pistol used in the movie True Lies. Jamie Lee Curtis wiped out a squad of terrorists attacking her and her secret-agent husband (Arnold Schwarzenegger) by dropping an M11 down a flight of stairs. As the pistol bumped and rolled down the stairs, it fired and killed all the bad guys while Curtis screamed and waved her hands helplessly in excitement.

Empties your mag in less than 2.5 seconds!
This nifty green gas gun fires a whopping 1,200 rounds a minute! The stick magazine holds 48 airsoft BBs. At 20 rounds a second, you’ll be empty in 2.5 seconds. I defy you to shoot just 2 rounds in full auto. Your finger isn’t fast enough!

A separate loader makes pouring in BBs a breeze, though you will have to fiddle to get all the voids out of the stack. You don’t really have to bother to do that, since the gun fires without a hitch til the mag is empty. Expect some BBs to drop from the gun while you shoot, so shooting outside will cause less trouble than having them in your house.

Speaking of BBs, get a truckload, because they go REALLY fast! But also get a a bottle with a pouring spout, to pour them into the magazine loader.

The Hop Up mechanism (makes BBs fly straight over longer distances) is adjustable through the ejection port by using a spanner (wrench) that’s included with the gun. My gun was shooting them high until I adjusted for the 0.20-gram BBs I used.


The spanner (wrench) moves the point of impact.
Shooting too low? Move the spanner up.
Shooting too high? Move the spanner down.

If you can’t read Japanese, here’s how to load the green gas
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a gun and not being able to shoot it right away. Since the instructions are written in Japanese, these directions for loading green gas will make things easier for you:

1. Invert the magazine
2. Stick the green gas probe into the gas port (in the bottom of the mag)
3. Press down firmly & hold for about 2 seconds
4. Repeat step 3 several times
5. When gas starts puffing out around the gas port, your gun is filled


Depress the green gas can’s probe into the
magazine’s gas port for 2 seconds at a time.

Be sure to stock up on green gas. I ran through it pretty fast, even though there are thousands of shots in a large can. The gun holds enough gas to shoot 2 full mags.

Yes, it has sights – no, you won’t use them! You’ll mash down the trigger and walk your shots onto the target the same as the rest of us.

There’s a semiautomatic switch on the left side of the receiver, and I expect you’ll use it about as often as you read the tags on your mattresses.

Solid, powerful – and a boatload of fun!
This is a solid-feeling gun without being too heavy. It weighs about 3 lbs. with the metal magazine installed. The rest of the gun’s exterior is plastic, but it has a great feel to it. The steel wire stock deploys from under the receiver, and the butt flips down and locks in place. The gun can be fired from the shoulder or held as a pistol.

This gun is among the most powerful you can buy off the shelf (it will shoot out light bulbs), so wear shooting glasses and don’t shoot at people or pets!

I don’t care who you are – you’re gonna love shooting this gun!

Why I like big bore single-shot air rifles

By B.B. Pelletier

I promised a reader of the April 11 blog that I would explain why I like my big bore airguns to be single shots.

Big bores can be VERY accurate
And, single-loaded bullets are also VERY accurate. Ask anyone who reloads ammunition for firearms why they do it, and one of the answers is they can make better ammo. Better means more accurate.

Single shots out-perform repeaters
I’m not making this up – check it out. For the best accuracy possible, always use a single-shot. This is very important in pellet guns. By inserting a pellet directly into the bore, rather than letting a mechanism do it for you, you are cutting down the chance for damage to the pellet.

My favorite Pyramyd big bore
I like all the single-shot big bores Pyramyd Air offers, but I do have a favorite. The Big Bore 909S (which used to be called the Big Bore 44) is a .45-caliber single-shot rifle with a sliding breech cover for loading the barrel. It is SO EASY to load this rifle – even with a large scope mounted on top.

The 909S loading port is longer than the loading trough on the Career Dragon .50-caliber bolt-action rifle, so you can load longer, heavier bullets. Take a look at the .45 caliber pellets available on this website.

A single-shot means more ammo possibilities
Consider this: the 909S is a .45-caliber rifle with the SAME bore size as a .45 ACP pistol cartridge. So there are HUNDREDS OF LEAD BULLETS to choose from! Any good gun store should have several styles of cast lead bullets that will fit your rifle. They need to be sized 0.451″ or 0.452″, which is the most common size for the .45 ACP.

The 909S also produces about the same power as the Dragon, even though it shoots a slightly smaller caliber bullet, so you lose nothing by choosing it. Of course, the Dragon ain’t no slouch, either! Pyramyd stocks three .50-caliber pellets for it. Aftermarket bullets are not as common as they are for the .45, but if you cast your own, they can be whatever you want. Just don’t go too far past 275 grains in weight because the rifle won’t stabilize a bullet heavier than that.

The other reason I like single-shot big bores
This reason is simple – AIR. Big bores go through a lot of it. It’s fairly useless to have 10 fast shots if you only have enough air for 4! So big bore repeaters are all in the smaller calibers. When you want to shoot a real bruiser, it will be a single-shot for sure.

Let me know what you think of big bore single-shots!

5 more tips to improve your accuracy

By B.B. Pelletier

1. “Aim small, miss small”
That’s a quote from the movie Patriot. It means that if you aim at a small enough target, even a near miss might land your pellet (or bullet) where you want it.

Here’s how it applies. If you are shooting at targets, don’t shoot out your aim point. Adjust the scope so your shots land somewhere other than at the intersection of the crosshairs. That way, you’ll always have the fresh spot on the target to aim at.

Many shooters don’t know this and they think they can just guess where to aim when the aim point is gone. That increases the size of their groups by an enormous amount. Of course, after you’ve shot your super-tight groups, don’t forget to readjust your scope so the aim point and point of impact are the same.


With the center blown
away, where do you aim?


Adjust the scope to group
away from the aim point.

2. Shoot smaller numbers of shots
A 10-shot group will always be larger than a 5-shot group from the same gun when all other conditions remain the same. A 3-shot group will usually be smaller than a 5-shot group. To decrease the size of your groups, shoot fewer shots.

3. Use REAL paper targets
If you’ve never used real paper targets, you’re in for a treat. Real targets are printed on paper that doesn’t tear the way standard copier paper does. I’m always amazed at people who print their targets on a printer because they will have almost no idea how large or small their groups really are.

Paper targets are printed on special paper, which is why they cost a little more; but, if you care about accuracy, they’ll deliver the results you want. And, if you are going to use real targets, you should also use wadcutter pellets, because they cut perfectly round holes that are easier to score and measure. There are many brands and models of these pellets, but for my money RWS R10 (light) and H&N High Speed Finale Match pellets get the highest marks.

4. Use a good scope
I can’t believe how many shooters give away 50% of the potential accuracy of their air rifle by not using a scope. When it comes to accuracy, there simply is no comparison between open sights of any kind and a scope. A target scope usually out-performs a hunting scope, but you have to be careful because a lot of makers call their scopes target scopes. Look for higher magnification and finer reticles on good target scopes, such as this Leapers 6-24x50mm scope or this AirForce 4-16x50mm scope.

Of course, if you just want to shoot with open sights, that’s a different story. But acknowledge that any rifle will be 50% more accurate with a properly-installed scope.

5. Use good pellets
How do you know a good pellet when you see it? For starters, brand-name pellets are usually good. The best names in the world are H&N, RWS, Bohumin and Crosman (for Premiers in the cardboard box, only). Pellets purchased at discount stores tend to be the cheaper brands and are often disappointing. If you need to stock up on good pellets, this is a great time to do it. Pyramyd Air still has their pellet promotion going – buy 4 boxes of pellets and only pay for 3!

If you add these 5 accuracy tips to those I’ve written in previous blogs, you’ll be well on your way to shooting better – and enjoying it that much more! Let me know if these help you or if you have questions.

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