Archive for October 2005

Air shotguns, part 3: the Crosman Trapmaster 1100

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman made a shotgun! The Trapmaster 1100 was a CO2 shotgun that copied Remington’s popular 1100 autoloader. That strange thin rod sticking out from the forearm cap is the powerlet piercing lever.

It all began with instinct shooting
On October 26, I reported on the Fire 201 air shotgun, so today I’ll cover the Crosman Trapmaster 1100. This is a special shotgun because it was made by America’s leading maker of CO2 guns. The Crosman 1100 was produced from 1968 through 1971, so the run was relatively short. It was also the final result of an interesting development that began in 1954, with a man called Lucky McDaniel.

From civilian to military in one decade
Lucky taught instinct shooting for many decades. He was the creator of the program Daisy sold as Quick Skill and the U.S. Army copied during Vietnam, changing the name to Quick Kill.

Lucky had many important students, but Floyd Patterson, the world heavyweight boxing champion, was the most famous. In 1957, Floyd fought an unprecidented match with Pete Rademacher, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist. Pete wanted to win the title in his first professional bout, so he convinced Patterson to give him a shot. It didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, but Pete became interested in instinct shooting after learning that Patterson credited much of his success to the instinct shooting training.

Floyd Patterson wasn’t the only boxer interested in airguns!
In the late 1950s, Rademacher was selling his own instinct shooting system with a Parris BB gun and a spring-powered trap to throw special breakaway aerial targets. Pete’s trap and reusable plastic targets were so interesting that Crosman arranged to manufacture them. They created their own gun to shoot the targets; instead of a BB gun, they made an entirely new .380 caliber CO2 shotgun called the Trapmaster 1100. It copied the Remington 1100 autoloader and was huge. It needed an extra-long 28″ barrel to get the velocity with CO2 (I mentioned this relationship in previous blogs).

You might be able to guess the velocity of the Trapmaster
The Trapmaster had two power levels, selected by cocking to the first stop or going all the way to the second. In factory trim, the high-power setting delivered about 450 to 500 f.p.s. for a tiny pinch of shot – just over half what the Fire 201 used. That velocity is interesting because it’s very close to that of the Farco, which is also a CO2 shotgun. Are you starting to see some similarities among airguns with similar powerplants and features?

This gun is a gas hog!
The Trapmaster needs two 12-gram powerlets to function. You’ll get about 30+ shots on high power with the gas from the two. You can try to economize and use just a single fresh powerlet (with an empty one inserted to give the necessary length), but you’ll cut the number of shots by more than half. Some owners convert it to bulkfill, which reduces the gas cost to about 10%, though you get fewer shots per fill unless you extend the length of the gas reservoir.

The eternal quest for power
Hobbyists soon added stronger hammer springs to boost the power, and I have heard reports of guns shooting over 600 f.p.s. on high power. Before you get excited, there’s also a mention in the back of Airgun Digest (the first edition) where a Trapmaster 1100 was converted to a .20 caliber rifle that reportedly got over 1,600 f.p.s.! After reading this blog, you should be able to spot the error in that. I don’t believe that any CO2 gun could EVER get a pellet up to 1,600 f.p.s.!

When it fired, it sounded like a ladybug sneezing!
The shot was held in red plastic shotshells that were reloadable. The gun fired about 62 grains of No. 8 chilled lead shot, or just over half the load of a Fire 201. It made a 14″ pattern at 40 feet. It wasn’t much, but it would pop the plastic aerial targets apart, which was the only reason the gun existed. I think collectors like the Trapmaster more for its size and good looks than for its performance, which has to be the most anemic of all air shotguns.

Looks good in person
As much as I pan its performance, the Trapmaster still gets me whenever I hold one. It’s a large, good-looking shotgun, and you just wish it could shoot as good as it looks. Expect to pay $150 to $200 for a nice example today. Most of them will be in nice shape, because their owners take good care of them. It’s the kind of airgun that inspires pride.

Diana RWS 46 – a German underlever

by B.B. Pelletier

Let’s finish this week with something different. When you think of underlever spring rifles you probably think of a TX 200, an HW 77 or perhaps the Tech Force 99. How many of you have taken a good look at the Diana RWS 46?

The underlever moves very far back, decreasing the cocking effort.

Diana’s answer to the TX 200
Diana is the company that makes airguns for RWS. Over the years, and I mean going back before World War II, they have made some of the all-time classic spring-piston air rifles AND air pistols. I will report on many of them for you in the future, but today let’s look at their “world beater” model 46. It was developed SPECIFICALLY to go head-to-head against the British TX 200. That’s what Frank Turner, the president of Dynamit Nobel-RWS USA, told me when the model first came out. So, how does it stack up?

Fit and finish
Diana has always had a good fit and finish, but it’s never quite up to the standards of Weihrauch. Perhaps, it’s more in the BSA class. Since the 46 was targeted to go after the British TX, they went out of their way to make as crisp a rifle as they could. The lines are very clean and the cheekpiece is quite stylish and well-shaped – an area where other Dianas perhaps fall short. The stock has the typical Diana angularity, compared to the more rounded TX. It also shaves off about a pound of weight, making the 46 the lighter rifle.

The TX wins, hands down, when it comes to triggers. It has a copy of the German Rekord, while the Diana struggles with its own design. It’s good, but the trigger on the TX is superb!

Accuracy of the two rifles is very close. The TX might be better in one individual rifle, but the Diana 46 might be better another time. Both are splendidly accurate. The TX shoots a little more neutral, while the Diana needs a softer hold. In the end, both are very accurate.

The Diana RWS 46 wins with no contest. The TX requires a deep reach into a port, while the 46 opens up to give you perfect access to the breech. It’s as good as a breakbarrel!

Easy access to the breech is provided by the flip-up loading port.

I have to favor the TX on power, though the 46 is remarkably fast for as easy as it is to cock. The TX is quite a bit harder to cock, which is where the extra 25 to 50 f.p.s. (in .177) come from.

By this time, you’ve probably checked the prices for these two and found that the Diana RWS 46 is quite a bit less than the TX. Even if you go for the Hunting Carbine at $479, the TX is still $130 more than the 46. I can’t say if it’s worth the extra money – that’s for YOU to decide. But, I can tell you that I think most shooters would be happy with the 46. It does the job and won’t let you down. It’s a wonderful spring-piston rifle that happens to come at a really nice price.

The Beeman P1/HW 45: A shoulder stock, red dot sight & more!

by B.B. Pelletier.

If you own a Beeman P1 air pistol or an HW 45, I’ll bet it’s one of your favorites. The gun has so much going for it, and today I’ll show you how it can be made even better!

A spring pistol with several differences!
For starters, the P1 is one of the all-time highest-powered spring pistols ever made. It achieves that distinction despite being quite compact, if not small. Weihrauch has folded the spring piston into what looks like an oversized slide on a Colt M1911A1. Through the use of an extra-long stroke, they manage to generate magnum power in a space other air pistols cannot.

It’s easy to cock
A weaker mainspring allows for easy cocking effort in spite of the power. The piston comes straight back at your hand, so the recoil force is very much like a firearm. The gun can actually be cocked to two different levels for low and high power, though I never shoot mine on anything but high. I found that if I shot too much on low power, the gun would diesel with every shot. Don Walker at Beeman told me to dry-fire the gun twice, after which I should shoot it only on high power. I’ve been doing that ever since.

Dry-firing the P1 sounds dangerous, but the pistol has a PTFE (a term for Teflon) piston seal that actually forms to the compression chamber that way. Webley rifles used to do that also.

The trigger is excellent!
This is one time an airgun trigger is better than a firearm’s. No M1911A1 I ever examined has a trigger as crisp and light as my P1 – not even the ones costing $3,000! Put that trigger with the superb barrel, and you get accuracy that a 1911 is hard-pressed to match out to 50 feet.

What’s better than a P1?
A P1 with a shoulder stock, of course. Years ago, Beeman sold an optional shoulder stock for the P1 and I bought one. It was solid, rugged and looked great. Because of the pistol’s great power, it made the gun a viable hunting airgun for smaller game.

Beeman dropped the shoulder stock from their line several years ago, but Pyramyd Air created one of their own! The Pyramyd Air HW 45 shoulder stock (also fits the P1 because they are the same gun) is walnut, not the beech that Beeman sold. As a result, it’s more highly figured. And, it sells today for $27 less than Beeman charged back in 1995. So it’s a great deal.

If you stock it, get a better sight
With the shoulder stock, I was able to hold the P1 much more rigidly, increasing my accuracy. It pushed my limit for hunting small game out to 20 to 25 yards. I chose a red dot sight – and in those days, there weren’t a lot of them available. I paid $130 for a Pro Point and got half the performance you can get from the BSA 30mm red dot! Check the price and see what you think.

If you want your P1 to lead an entirely different second life, try a shoulder stock. It changes the way the gun shoots and feels, turning it into a nice little carbine.

Air shotguns, part 2: the Fire 201

by B.B. Pelletier

On October 18, we learned about the Farco shotgun from the Philippines. In this second look at air shotguns, we’ll examine a gun that was so powerful that it spawned a whole line of air rifles for its maker. The Fire 201 air shotgun from Shin Sung.

The original Fire 201 air shotgun later served as the foundation for a generation of Korean big bore air rifles.

Today’s Fire 201 is completely different!
Pyramyd Air still sells a gun called the Fire 201S, but now it’s a single-shot big bore rifle. It is actually a direct descendant of the shotgun, though it shoots single bullets/pellets only and has a 9mm rifled barrel. The original Fire 201 was a .25-caliber smoothbore that used special shotshells to hold the shot. A .25 caliber Beeman felt cleaning pellet was inserted on either end of this shotshell to hold the shot in place, and the shell was placed into the breech of the gun, exposed by a sliding gold cover.

Shot filled the special aluminum shotshell and was held in by a felt cleaning pellet on either side of the shell.

The loading trough that is now so familiar to big bore shooters was initially created to hold Fire 201 shotshell.

Tremendous power!
Because its valve is based on the powerful Career 707, the Fire 201 shotgun was extremely powerful. Mine shot a 115-grain load of shot at an average of 1,010 f.p.s., which works out to 260.55 foot-pounds of muzzle energy (visit the energy calculator on this website to figure that out). That was astounding, and I believe it holds the record for any air shotgun. But, American shooters avoided it like the plague. They weren’t interested in air shotguns, it seemed. A few experimenters added a 9mm barrel to see what was possible, and Shin Sung’s whole line of big bores was born!

Inside of a year, the 9mm rifle was being imported directly from Shin Sung, and the .25 caliber shotgun was becoming hard to find. Airgunners had to learn the lessons of bullet weight/length versus rifling twist in order to get any accuracy, but the factory also provided huge 9mm diabolo pellets for those who didn’t like to bother.

Was it a practical shotgun?
Unlike the Farco, the Fire 201 could easily break clay pigeons. There was a tradeoff, though. Because of the relatively small charge of shot it held, this gun had no practical range. Like the .410 shotgun that is equal in velocity to the 12 gauge but only holds a tiny fraction of the shot, the Fire 201 shot pattern spread too fast to be of much use. At 10 yards it would tear apart a small bird, and at 20 yards the bird would not be hit by one shot! That made it a poor shotgun, but a wonderful foundation for a big bore rifle.

There are plenty of other air shotguns. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing about them!

Take a rest! The value of good shooting rests

Everyone is interested in shooting more accurately, so today I’ll look at one of the best aids for doing that – the shooting rest. If you’re like me, you probably get along with any old wadded-up bunch of fabric that happens to be handy. In cool weather, a jacket comes into play, but sometimes you need that jacket for yourself. So what do you do?

Sandbags are the No. 1 rest
Everywhere in the world, a sandbag is considered as much a gun rest as whatever other function it may serve. Buy the sand in plastic sacks at one of the home centers and put it into the cut-off legs of an old pair of jeans. It will last for years like that.

Sand is dense and moldable, so it accepts the stock of your rifle or provides a soft place to rest your hands or the butt of your handgun. It doesn’t react to recoil, so with firearms and gas airguns it is a very neutral rest. Only the spring gun needs flesh between the bag and the gun. However you use it, a sandbag is your friend. But, it has some drawbacks.

For starters, it’s heavy! Lugging a sandbag to the range means an extra trip to the car when you load or unload. Good ranges have bags at each bench, but not all of us shoot at good ranges. Or, you find when you arrive that the inconsiderate shooter on lane four has glommed onto all nine bags for himself, leaving you to fend for yourself.

Try a shot bag!
If you want to carry something in your range bag but you don’t want to lug around 20 pounds of sand, get a small shot bag. Lead shot is even heavier than sand, but it’s also denser, so you can do with much less. A 5-lb. shot bag can lay on a concrete block and still give you the support you need.

Buy a small size of shot, like No. 8 or 9. It acts more like sand when it’s small. Get shot at a good gun dealer in 25-lb. bags. Heck, the bags shot comes in also make good rests, though a full 25-lb. bag defeats the portability aspect.

If only there were something else
That something would have to be dense as sand and shot. It would have to mold to your gun or hands when you rest on it. In fact, it would have to look a lot like the new Gel Shooting Support Pyramyd Air now offers in their Shooting Needs section.

The advantage of a bag like this is that it’s lighter than lead and denser than sand. Not only does it cushion your gun, it also clings to whatever it’s put on, so the whole world becomes your rest. Use it on rocks, branches or fence rails. Use it on the railing of your deck! It looks like the perfect blend of lead and sand and handier than either to pack around.

I’d like to hear from readers who have used this gel bag, so how about a report? Does it work as I’ve described? What can you tell everyone? Do you need to pack several and stack them? Since they’re pocket-sized, are they good for hunting?

Gel bags have been around for years, but they’re relatively new to the shooting sports. This bag is brand-new at Pyramyd Air, so let’s find out if it’s the answer to or shooting support needs.

New toys!

Just in time for Christmas, three new Crosman airguns!

The Nightstalker is here!
I held off reporting on this new rifle until it became available, because I didn’t want to disappoint anybody with something they couldn’t buy. The Nightstalker isn’t just a new model – it’s a completely revolutionary TYPE of air rifle! Crosman bills it as the world’s first true semiautomatic pellet rifle, but of course there are a few others, such as the Drulov DU-10 Eagle, and all the biathlon target rifles made by Steyr and Haenel. But the Nightstalker is affordable! That’s the news. Although the suggested retail price is higher, Pyramyd will have them for just $109.99!

True semiautomatic airguns are very special, because lead pellets don’t like being fed through mechanisms. Even the manual bolt-action repeaters get jammed sometimes, so imagine what can happen when gas does the feeding in milliseconds! Crosman is an innovator in semiautomatic feeding, though. Their model 600 pistol is a classic airgun! I feeds so smoothly that you can’t tell it’s happening. That frees up the trigger to be lighter and crisper. Unfortunately, the 600 went out of production in 1970, so I hope they carried the idea forward into the Nightstalker!

Crosman’s 600 semiauto .22 pellet pistol fired 10 shots as fast as you could pull the trigger. No wonder they bring $200 to $300 on the used market today!

Isn’t the Crosman 1077 a semiauto?
The venerable Crosman 1077 looks like a semiauto and does shoot 12 shots, each with just the pull of the trigger, but it’s really a run by a clever revolver mechanism. Each trigger-pull has to also advance the cylinder, and that makes the trigger-pull longer than it would be if all it were doing were releasing the hammer. (Read about it in the post Expand you hunting opportunities with this great CO2 rifle!) That’s what makes the new Nightstalker so exciting.

I haven’t tested one yet, but Crosman is supposed to have a Nightstalker on its way to me. When I get it, you will hear my take on a remarkable new rifle that could potentially set the airgunning world on its ear!

The Commemorative 760 Pumpmaster
The 760 Pumpmaster was created in 1966. It is based on the powerplant of the famous 130 pistol that I reviewed for you on September 19 (see the post Another oldie – Crosman 130). Airgunners love their 760s and many of you grew up with this being your first gun of any kind. I read comments from older men whose eyes still mist up when they speak of their first love. Now, you can get a commemorative edition of the famous 760 that marks the 11 millionth rifle sold! Only 1,500 will be made, so for gosh sakes don’t miss out!

Pyramyd Air won’t get them all, so get yours ordered before the rest of the world discovers it. I know Daisy sells out of their commemoratives in months and even weeks, and they sometimes make 2,500 of them! Crosman announced a list price of $99.95, but Pyramyd has them for just $79.99. Buy several and speculate like the collectors do, but act quickly!

A brand new Remington rifle from Crosman. The Summit is beautiful, powerful and comes packed with features.

The Remington Summit
Here is a new model from Crosman. It carries the Remington name and it comes with a wood stock, adjustable sights and trigger, AND a scope! It should be available for the holidays, though I believe it will take a little longer than the other two guns. It offers 1,000 f.p.s. velocity in .177 and retails for $250.

Well, there you have three new airguns to dream about. This IS the start of dreamin’ season, isn’t it?

Kalashnikov BB gun – a rare collectable you probably missed!

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of you like vintage airguns, and you like reading about them here. Today, I thought I would share a rare collectable that was being sold as recently as 2001. The Kalashnikov BB gun!

Just as real as it looks. The Kalashnikov BB gun was made on a genuine firearm frame.

It was made from a REAL AK-74!
Like the Makarov BB pistol I covered on August 8 (Just like a REAL gun!), the Kalashnikov BB gun was also made from a firearm. It’s made of steel and feels very heavy and solid in your hands. The AK feeling is so pervasive that you feel as if you’re holding an assault rifle instead of a BB gun. Mind you, I’m talking about a real steel BB gun, not a 6mm airsoft gun.

It’s made by the same company that makes the firearm
It should be real – it was made by Izhmash, the same folks who make Kalashnikov firearms, as well as the Makarov pistols. That may have lead to the early demise of the gun in the U.S. The Makarov pistol was already on the list of airguns made from firearms that our government would no longer allow for sale in this country. They claimed that it is fairly easy to convert a Makarov air pistol into a firearm. Coming on the heels of that ruling, the Kalashnikov didn’t stand a chance.

They were called Junkers!
No kidding! A Junker (pronounced “Yunker” in Russian) is the lowest rank of commissioned officer, or perhaps they are not yet commissioned. On that point I’m not clear, but I do know that Junker is one heck of a bad name for anything sold in America! (It’s kind of like when Chevy tried to sell their Nova in South America, where “no va” means “no go” in Spanish.) These guns were to be priced at $365, which is a lot of money for a BB gun but not bad for the super-rare collectable it turned out to be.

The CO2 cartridge and spring-loaded BB magazine are housed in this firing mechanism, along with the firing valve. It tucks neatly out of sight in a banana magazine shell.

Powered by CO2
Like the Makarov, the heart of the gun was a CO2 all-in-one firing mechanism and magazine hidden inside the banana magazine. The rest of the gun was a housing and trigger/hammer for this mechanism. One CO2 cartridge and 20 steel BBs were held in place by this mechanism. Velocity was mid-range – about 250 to 350 f.p.s. – because the barrel was short and no attempt was made to maximize power. The gun sold on the coolness factor alone.

It disassembled like the real deal
Because it was made from a firearm, this BB gun came apart just like any other Kalashnikov. Soldiers and Marines who served during the Vietnam War should have no difficulty popping one apart in under 20 seconds with a little practice. Once you got it apart, you could appreciate why the gun was banned from importation. There wasn’t a lot of difference between the BB gun and the firearm, except that on the BB gun most of the parts served no functional purpose.

It strips for cleaning in seconds. Of course, because it’s a BB gun, there’s nothing to clean!

And, the moral of the story is…
Not all collectables were around before you came into airgunning.
Sometimes, you just need to be in the right place at the right time. Pyramyd Air was going to sell these BB guns before the ban was imposed, so all of you would have been insiders! Perhaps, the AK is not your cup of tea, but who says the next rare airgun won’t be? I missed out on this one, too, but this story inspires me to keep on looking! How about you?

Top-notch springer
Air Arms TX200 air rifle

When it comes to spring-piston air rifles, the Air Arms TX200 Mk III is a favorite of many airgunners, including airgun writer Tom Gaylord. His favorite caliber is .177. While the gun will initially impress you with its beauty and superior craftsmanship, you'll be even more impressed with the incredible accuracy! Tom claims this is "the most accurate spring gun below $3,000." Beech or walnut, left-hand or right-hand stock. Isn't it time you got yours?

All the fun, none of the hassles!
Uzi CO2 BB submachine gun

You've seen tons of movies with guys spraying bullets from their Uzi submachine guns and probably thought it would be a blast. Except for the cost of ammo! You can have all that fun with this Uzi BB submachine gun at just pennies a round. Throw shots downrange for hours on end with all the fun, none of the firearm hassles and a fraction of the cost.