Archive for April 2006

Advanced accuracy tips: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Let’s get right to it.

Tip 3. Follow-through
Follow-through means to continue to aim at the target after the shot has been fired. The opposite of follow-through is to lower your gun the instant you know the shot is off. Follow-through forces you to observe what happens AFTER the shot has been taken. After you practice it for awhile, you will start seeing what takes place at the instant the shot is taken. This is the benefit of follow-through. The things you see will astonish you.

You will see your sights suddenly jump off the target just as the shot is fired! If you are shooting right-handed, they will jump to the left; if left-handed, vice-versa. Seeing this will make you concentrate on relaxing to the point that the sights no longer jump.

You will see the shot taken with the sights not properly aligned. Non-shooters have a fantasy that sights remain steady on a target the way they are shown in movies. Shooters know they don’t. The sights almost never stop moving, and follow-through forces you to watch in horror as the gun fires at the least opportune moment.

You may see yourself start dismounting the gun before the shot is fired! This is a REAL shock the first time you see it. I have run pistol ranges where the shooters were kicking up dust six feet in front of themselves while shooting at a chest-high bullseye 25 yards away. This happened during rapid-fire exercises, and the bullets weren’t lying. Those shooters really were pointing their pistols at the ground shot after shot, all the while thinking they were aiming at a distant bullseye! What they really did was dip the muzzle of the pistol the moment before they jerked off the shot. It is so unbelievable that you often have to see another person do it before you can believe that you do it yourself.

Follow-through forces you to evaluate each shot, and your own self-esteem takes it from there. Either that or you get out of the shooting sports altogether.

Tip 4. Measure your groups
I was once surprised when a shooter told me he had just shot a half-inch group from 100 yards. I was looking at his target and though I didn’t have a ruler, I could clearly see his group was larger than two inches! That’s because, after many years of shooting and measuring groups, I’ve developed a sense of scale.

Here is how to measure a group. Measure across the widest dimension of the two shots farthest apart. If there is any doubt about which ones are farthest apart, measure all of them. If you shoot anything but wadcutter pellets, don’t forget to include the torn margin around the bullet hole that is also where the bullet passed through the paper. You can measure this with a ruler, but a dial caliper is much easier to use.

You can measure with a ruler. I’ve placed the ruler below the bull so you can see the markings on it, but you should place it across the widest spot in the group.

An inexpensive dial caliper makes group measurement easier.

After measuring across the group, subtract one pellet diameter from the measurement. That eliminates half a pellet from each side of the group – resulting in a center-to-center measurement!

What you learn from measuring is how large a half-inch group can be and how small a one-inch group really is. With practice, you’ll be able to estimate sizes more easily.

Choosing an airsoft gun for skirmishes

by B.B. Pelletier

A long gun is the most important thing you can take into an airsoft battle. Pistols and grenades are fine in some situations, but long guns are the principal tool of an airsoft warrior. Here are some tips for the budget-minded airsoft shooter who wants to get into the game.

Get an accurate gun
You want to get a gun you can afford, but you don’t want to be under-armed because you tried to save a few dollars. What are the considerations? First, you want an accurate gun. The object is to hit the enemy, and you’ll have to shoot at long range unless you don’t care about getting killed right away. So, adjustable Hop Up is a requirement. Hop Up puts the backspin on the BB and makes it go straight for longer distances. Each BB needs a different Hop Up setting, so you really need an adjustable one.

Power is not the dominant feature people make it out to be. Yes, it’s nice for a sniper to hit an enemy 100 yards away, but the typical airsoft warrior doesn’t shoot that far. Don’t worry about upgrades before you actually have the gun. A gun that handles at least 0.20-gram BBs and 0.25-gram BBs is good, as well, but you don’t need 400 f.p.s. in the beginning. A player with a 300 f.p.s. M16 he can use has a lot more fun than a dreamer waiting to buy the gun he can later upgrade to 500 f.p.s.!

Think those scopes are way cool? Think again! They loosen during maneuvers, and you can’t get them on target half as quick as good open sights. Let the snipers use scopes; you save your money for gear, BBs and game time. But, a red dot sight is different. They are quick on target and they don’t cost as much as a scope. Get the biggest dot sight (the one with the largest optical diameter) you can afford because it will decrease your target acquisition time. Otherwise, stick with open sights.

Player strategy
A new player usually adopts a “spray and pray” tactic because he’s learned it from the movies. After being eliminated early in a couple of dozen battles, the thoughtful person starts wondering if there isn’t a better way. That’s the fun of airsoft skirmishes, because you learn there are times to be quick and bold and other times to be quiet and stealthy. A magazine that holds 300 BBs is barely enough for the first five minutes in the hands of a newbie, but a veteran can make that mag last a lot longer – depending on the situation.

I tell you this for a reason – the number of mags you can carry isn’t important unless you signed up to be a pack mule. What you DO with your mags is what matters. Your enemy won’t die any faster when your cyclic rate is 1,100 rpm, but he will go down if you hit him! Stop dreaming about the number of mags and BBs you have and how many upgrades you’ll need before you can cycle shots like a minigun and start focusing on using the gun to its best advantage. Every airsoft warrior should be forced to watch the movie Quigley Down Under before being allowed to touch a gun.

Buy an AEG
There are three main airsoft powerplants – springers, gas guns and automatic electric guns (AEG). For a personal long gun in battle, nothing can beat an AEG. Even if you leave the selector switch on semi-auto, as some of the top players do, you still have quick second and third shots waiting to go. Snipers can use spring guns, but the fire team needs fast, suppressive fire at times. Save gas for your sidearms, where it works best.

Metal body or plastic?
Both work well for airsoft games and NEITHER is unbreakable! Despite what you have heard, the metal bodies will bend and dent with use. They are tougher than plastic, it’s true, but a plastic gun can last a long time with the right player. Some guns that start out with a plastic body, like Marui, can be modified with a metal body when there is more money available.

That’s my pick for a budget airsoft long gun. It has to be accurate, have quick sights, and both semi- and full-auto action (an AEG). If you have a favorite gun, why not tell everyone why you like it?

Advanced accuracy tips: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I want to share some accuracy tips I’ve learned over the years. These should be added to all the tips this blog has covered since it started. There are too many of those to recap here, but searching for them would be well worth the effort. You should look at the postings about scopes, scope mounting (including levels), anything about pellets and barrel cleaning. Today’s two tips cover all kinds of airguns.

Tip 1. Relax!
I don’t mean melt into a puddle…just relax before you take each shot. And, not just you – make sure the GUN is relaxed, too! What do I mean by that? I mean, make sure the gun is not being held in a cramped or forced position, that it can move in any direction after the shot is fired. This tip is especially good when shooting a spring rifle, but it also works for all other kinds of rifles and pistols. Here’s a good way to ensure that you’re relaxed with a scoped rifle.

After you are sighted on target, close your eyes and force yourself to relax. Now, open your eyes. Where are the sights aiming? That’s where your rifle wants to shoot! So, make some adjustments and try it again until your sights remain on target.

With a target pistol, you have to hold the pistol on target. Your shooting arm can’t be relaxed, but the rest of your body can be! So, do the same thing, but allow for the shooting arm. Get on target, close your eyes, relax and open your eyes to see where the sights are aiming. When shooting a pistol and when shooting a rifle offhand, I find that the position of my feet has a lot to do with where I’m aimed after relaxing.

When I want to make the best possible group, I always do the above, and I go through the procedure as many times as it takes. I stop going through this drill when I open my eyes and the sights are still on target. That can take over a minute per shot, especially if I have to move between shots to cock and load the gun.

Tip 2. Find the power level and pellet that your gun likes – and stick to it!
This tip applies mostly to those airguns with adjustable power, but all guns will have a favorite pellet. It has been my experience that each airgun with adjustable power has a spot or two where it performs really well. If you change pellets, the spot may change, too. Find the power spot for your gun and keep it there for best results. Also, find the pellet that your gun likes best, which I’ve covered in several past posts.

The shooters who are hung up on velocity have a hard time doing this. I have actually taken an “inaccurate” pneumatic rifle and shot a group nearly one-fourth the size the owner had been getting. I did it by turning the power down in every case. After the group was shot, the shooter told me he only wanted to run his gun on the maximum power setting. Fine – but don’t blame your airgun for your own failure to understand what it takes to be accurate. That’s like entering a draft horse the Kentucky Derby or pulling a wagon with a thoroughbred!

Here is an actual incident to support my story. I knew a shooter who wanted to get the most from his Sheridan Blue Streak. He sent it off to have the powerplant upgraded. When it came back, it was set to allow as many as 14 pump strokes instead of the factory-recommended 8. The shooter then loaded his rifle with super heavyweight Korean .20 caliber pellets that delivered over 20 foot-pounds when he pumped his gun as high as it would go. He shot 1-1/8″ 5-shot groups at 30 yards with this combination. With the same rifle, I pumped just six times and shot five Crosman Premiers into a 3/8″ group at 30 yards. That was with the upgraded rifle! The upgrade had increased the power, but the accuracy had been there all the time.

Crosman stopped making Premiers in .20 caliber a short while back, then they were persuaded to start making them again. The world supply is short as this is printed, but the Crosman domed pellet is close enough until Premiers come back.

I know Premiers work well in Sheridan Blue and Silver Streaks. I’ve never seen one that didn’t like them. While they may not be the absolute best pellet in these rifles, they will probably always be in the top five. I don’t have to waste my time trying hundreds of pellets for a Blue Streak, I stick with them until someone shows me something better.

“What kind of groups does it get from the standing position?”

by B.B. Pelletier,

We get this question from time to time, so today I thought I’d try to answer it. This one came from a reader who calls himself TB, and here is his entire comment.


I’ve been looking into PCP airugns for a while, and I am impressed with all of the accuracy claims. I am very intersted in the Air Force Condor rifle. Apparently many people on the web get sub-1″ groups with the Condor. However, all of those claims seem to be with perfect conditions and from a shooting bench. Before I make the choice to spend over a $1000 for a PCP rig, I would really like to hear about PRACTICAL group sizes.

I have heard enough claims of the people shooting 1″ groups at 50 yards. I am not planning on sitting around with a bench rest, waiting for pests to show up. So, what accuracy can I expect from an airgun like the Condor, unsupported, standing up with light wind at 50 yards? I am very curious… your input is greatly appreciated.


Can you see why his question cannot be answered by me or anyone else?

Here’s the deal
TB’s question is similar to asking what sort of golf score would Tiger Woods get if he wasn’t a professional and didn’t have all those fancy clubs! I’m not picking on him, because this same type of question is asked all the time. And, I cannot answer it – any more than anyone else can. There simply is no answer for this question.

I have no idea what kind of shooter TB is. I have a friend who was state champion for four straight years with an M1A rifle. He could shoot 10 shots of match 7.62x52mm into LESS than three inches offhand (standing) at 100 yards. The only other person I know who can do as well was the Olympic high-power gold medalist in 1960 and 1964! You and I, if we are very good shots, might be able to put the same 10 rounds into a 6″ group offhand on a very good day (for us). The average rifle shot would be hard-pressed to keep 10 shots under 10″ at 100 yards if he didn’t rest the gun some way.

Because nobody knows what kind of shooter you are, they tell you about the GUN!
The gun is the one thing that remains constant from shooter to shooter. A gun that will group inside of one inch at 50 yards will be best in the hands of a great marksman and only mediocre in the hands of a mediocre shooter. But here is the important thing – a lousy gun will not shoot well in the hands of a good shot. If a gun can’t hold a 5″ group at 50 yards, nobody in the world will be able to shoot a 4″ group with it – offhand or from a rest. So, we report how good the gun is, and you determine how well it shoots for you.

I’m not just mincing words!
I know quite a few field target shooters who can shoot sub-1″ groups with an air rifle. Not just any air rifle, but with their own rifle. They can do this from the seated AAFTA position, which is not as solid as a benchrest. I know one who can shoot a 1″ group offhand at 50 yards when he is doing well. Very few shooters can do that.

TB – the reason we quote accuracy from a bench with no wind is because THAT’S AS GOOD AS IT GETS! I have shot a couple of half-inch 5-shot groups at 50 yards with an AirForce Talon SS. The Condor is no less accurate than the SS, nor is it more accurate. I have never shot a half-inch group at 50 yards with a Condor, but that’s because I don’t own one. I’ve shot maybe 10,000 shots from a Talon SS and not even 1,000 from a Condor. So the odds are that I will have done better with the SS, just from the greater number of opportunities.

What some people REALLY want to know!
They really want to know which rifle is the most accurate out of a Condor, an FX 2000, a Falcon and a Daystate. Believe it or not, all those rifles are pretty much equal in the accuracy potential department, because they all have wonderful barrels. I think the guns with the more conventional stocks (everything but the Condor) are easier to shoot accurately because of their stock configuration, but I learned how to shoot an AirForce rifle years ago, so a conventional stock is no longer an advantage. The others do have better triggers – of that there is no doubt. The Condor has a sporting trigger, and everything else I mentioned has very close to a target trigger. But if you learn your trigger, the advantage goes away there, too.

Shooting a Talon SS from a bipod, I believe I can hit an American quarter or a one Euro coin 7-8 times out of 10 at 50 yards, as long as there is no time limit (so I can wait for the wind to die). How is that different than potting a squirrel at the same distance? The American quarter measures 0.955″ in diameter and the one Euro measures 0.915″.

TB – and anyone else who might have the same question – I have tried to answer this as thoroughly as I can. But tell me if I missed your point.

Walther’s LP III: A single-stroke from the past

by B.B. Pelletier

Blogger went down sometime late April 23d. Apparently Google (the Blogger host) uses Blogger to post the status of Blogger for all Blogs, so they are not able to post any news about this. Apparently no comments can be posted while Blogger is down, but past posts are unaffected.

Many of you are fascinated by single-stroke airguns, judging from your comments whenever we post a report about one. Today, we’re looking at one of the early single-strokes, though by no means the first. Walther’s LP III was made between 1973 and 1985. Though it was intended as a target pistol, the rules for air pistols hadn’t been codified when it came out, so it can look different that the traditional target pistols we know today.

Walther’s LP III resembles their famous Olympia .22 target pistol of the 1950s. This model has the less expensive sporting grip.

Because this is the LP III (for luftpistole, model three), you might assume there was also a II and a I. The II existed, alright, but there was never an LP I from Walther. I would guess it had to be changed significantly and was never released for production. The LP II looks very much like the III, but it had a significantly different valve that proved troublesome in the field. In fact, a decade ago you could buy an LP II for about two-thirds of what an LP III brought, simply because nobody trusted the valve! The LP II was made from 1967 through 1972.

Single-stroke valves
We get a lot of questions about single-stroke valves, so maybe this is a good time to clear things up. A single-stroke pneumatic is an airgun that accepts just one pump of air to fire. I get very upset when people mistakenly call a spring gun a “one pump gun.” I know they mean one stroke of the barrel or cocking lever, but a spring gun is nothing like a pneumatic, and this sloppy terminology just confuses the new person.

Another big question is, “Why can’t I put in a second pump? It would make the gun even more powerful, wouldn’t it?” No, in fact, it wouldn’t. The pump head on a single-stroke pneumatic is also one end of the air reservoir. If you try to pump a second time, the air from the first pump will escape through the air inlet hole. I hope the drawing makes that clear.

This drawing shows why you can only put one pump of air into the single-stroke reservoir.

How it worked
The LP III was pumped with a lever that fit around the triggerguard. It popped down and drew the piston all the way back (it was concealed in the grip), then returned to the closed position to pressurize the gun. This lever was the LP III’s biggest fault, because it was too short to do the job efficiently. It took about 35 pounds of force to close the lever, and that seemed like even more because everything was so closely spaced. Many grown men could not pump the gun even once! As hard as it was to pump, it tired most competitors in a match. Repeated pumping left them with sore hands. The alternative target pistols weren’t much better, but the FWB 65 was both a little easier and much more accurate, and that spelled the end for this Walther.

The pump lever is completely withdrawn in preparation for pumping the pistol. The barrel is shown broken open for loading, but it doesn’t have to be to pump the gun.

Besides the pump lever, the LP III was also a breakbarrel for loading. A latch under the barrel pivot unlocked the barrel, which was tipped down to expose the breech. There was no spring resistance to this tipping; it was only for loading the pellet.

Although I don’t have an LP II with target grips to show you, the only difference was the adjustable wooden grips, themselves. Compared to a 10-meter pistol of today, these grips seem crude and awkward, but in their day they were considered very nice.

As nice as it was, the LP III held only a 5-shot group of about 0.16″ at 10 meters. That’s aspirin-busting accuracy, but it’s also about three times larger than the groups that today’s target pistols can shoot. It has a trigger so nice it’s only been surpassed in the last 10 years, and the sights sit very low in the hand. Power is in the 350 to 400 f.p.s. region with light target pellets.

As a collectible
There is a lot to collect with an LP III. First, there are two models, one with target grips, the other with plastic (shown). There’s an early model with a raised rib formed into the barrel and a later model with a round barrel. Finally, there’s a hard presentation case that also holds all tools, sight inserts and literature. The LP III is making a comeback after a couple of decades of being ignored. So, if you want one, better get going!

Gamo Rocket pellets: The accuracy test

by B.B. Pelletier

If it isn’t accurate, it isn’t anything. So, today, I’ll test the Rocket pellets in a couple of rifles of known accuracy. A reader asked if the lead in the Rocket is pure. I believe it is, based on how easy it was to remove the BB from a pellet.

Test guns
I selected a Daystate Harrier and a TX200 Mk III for this test. Both are known to be very accurate air rifles, and both have the power to handle the heavier Rocket pellet. Because of the 9.5-grain weight, I did not do any testing with air pistols. The point of the test was to determine potential accuracy, and for that you need distance. Air pistols are not powerful enough to properly stabilize heavier (longer) pellets at longer ranges.

Daystate Harrier
My Harrier is a very accurate .177 that I’ve used in field target matches for many years. It will group under an inch at 50 yards on a good day. I shot groups with both Rockets and with Beeman Kodiaks, with Kodiaks being the most accurate pellets for this rifle. Kodiaks averaged 872.4 f.p.s. and Rockets averaged 893.4 f.p.s., for 17.92 foot-pounds and 16.84 foot-pounds. respectively.

The test
The best distance I could get on testing day was 33 yards. The wind was relatively calm, but there were some breezes I had to wait out. I did not shoot great bunches of groups and select the best. Each group is the only one I shot that day with that pellet.

My Daystate Harrier likes Beeman Kodiaks. This is about a 0.30″ group of five.

The Harrier clearly did not like the Rocket pellets. It threw them all over the place, but kept nearly the same zero as for Kodiaks, which is interesting. It shifted left only a small amount.

The Harrier does not perform well with the Rockets. This group is slightly larger than one inch.

TX200 Mk III
Sometimes one gun will shoot a pellet real well, while another will not, so I always try a new pellet with at least two guns. This time the TX proved the wisdom of that philosophy, as it shot noticeably better with Rockets than the Harrier. It’s a little less powerful and, of course, a springer rather than a PCP, so the difference must be in there somewhere. It averaged 812.6 f.p.s. with Kodiaks and 869.1 f.p.s. with Rockets, for 15.55 foot-pounds and 15.94 foot-pounds, respectively.

TX200 does very well with Beeman Kodiaks, though it likes 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers best of all. A TX is easier to shoot than most spring guns, because it requires less holding technique. This five-shot group measures about 0.37″.

Not too shabby for a two-part pellet like the Rocket! This groups measures close to 0.75″. Notice that the aim point dropped a little and shifted to the right.

Is my test exhaustive? Obviously, not. But, I’ve tested enough pellets to recognize their performance potential from a small sampling like this. Had I shot at 40 or even 50 yards, the groups would have been larger and the performance of each pellet and airgun more dramatic. This test tells me what I need to know.

1. The Gamo Rocket does indeed generate more shock than a Beeman Kodiak. That is significant because the Kodiak is a trusted hunting pellet.

2. Though the Rocket is not as accurate as the best pellets, it is capable of acceptable groups in some air rifles. Therefore, it is worth trying.

3. The Rocket sells at a premium price (over $3.00 for 150 pellets). Because of that, it should only be used if there is a clear advantage of some kind.

Gamo Rocket pellets

by B. B. Pelletier

Gamo’s new Rocket pellet is tipped with a steel ball for better penetration and shock. B.B. will put it to the test.

Reader JDB asked for this report. The Rocket pellet from Gamo is a steel-tipped lead pellet. This type of pellet has been marketed for several years, first in the UK and now in the U.S. Daisy sells them and now Gamo has thrown their hat into the ring. I have always considered these to be gimmicks, so this will be an opportunity for me to see if my predictions of poor accuracy and mediocre shock and penetration are correct.

A STEEL tip? Why?
Gamo advertising claims maximum shock and enhanced penetration. I may not be a ballistics expert, but I am both a shooter and a handloader who knows that penetration and shock are at opposite ends of the performance spectrum. And, they are directly linked, as in “greater penetration equals less shock.” For penetration, a projectile has to retain energy as long as possible, carrying it deep into the target. To generate shock, a projectile must transfer energy as fast as possible to the target. These are mutually exclusive goals. Bulletmakers have worked for decades to offset this relationship, because it affects their product so much.

So, why do airgunners need a steel tipped pellet? Do we shoot through armor? The whole idea of steel-tipped pellets seems to be a solution for which there is no problem. However, I’m going to keep an open mind until the test results are in.

Rocket pellet is flanked by conventional BB on the right and a steel ball from the pellet on the left. Note how much smoother the ball appears, compared to the BB.

Not a BB!
At first glance you might think the tip of a Rocket pellet is just a common BB, but it isn’t. It’s much smaller than the traditional airgun projectile. Yet after examination under a magnifying glass, it appears to be made just as well as a modern BB, which raises another question. Why go to the trouble to head, finish and plate a steel ball, then attach it to a lead pellet MECHANICALLY – not with glue? What extreme benefit does this pellet possess to go to all that trouble? I was intrigued.

The one steel ball I removed measured 0.1186″ – very close to the size of a Daisy .118 BB that fits the .118-caliber Daisy Targeteer and all the Bullseye and Sharpshooter catapult pistols. I measured a vintage Daisy .118 BB to compare, and it was just two-thousandths smaller and not nearly as well-made. In fact, under a 10X loupe, the Gamo ball appears as uniform as a ball bearing. I wonder if Gamo is aware that they have created a second product they could sell for a premium to collectors? If not, I hope someone alerts them to this possibility.

Weight and balance
The steel ball weighs 1.6 grains, leaving the remainder of the 9.4 to 9.6 grain weight in lead. I was surprised by the weight uniformity of these pellets. Most weighed 9.5 grains, which is on the heavy side for a .177 pellet. Balance is best determined by shooting groups. By balance, I mean the uniformity of the weight distribution along the pellet’s axis. Close examination of the lead body shows seams with some flashing on opposite sides.

Rocket pellet on left did not penetrate as deeply as Beeman Kodiak on the right. This extreme closeup makes the base of the bar appear curved, but it is actually straight. The slightly broader penetration channel does indicate greater energy transfer, as Gamo claims, and that would explain the lack of penetration.

The Rocket was tested against a Beeman Kodiak pellet. Both pellets were shot from a Beeman P1 pistol into a bar of transparent facial soap. The Rocket weighs 9.5 grains, while the Kodiak weighs 10.6 grains – giving the power edge to the Rocket when shot from a springer. That didn’t make any difference, however, as the Kodiak clearly went slightly deeper into the soap. While other tests, such as penetration in wood, might produce different results, this test establishes the degree of penetration in a uniform medium. I believe a test could be constructed that would favor the Rocket, however that’s not what I’m after. Shooting into wood, for instance, is not a reasonable test for pellets. Neither is soap, however the soap is at least a homogeneous medium that shows comparative results.

The wider wound channel in the soap indicates that the Rocket did transfer more energy to the bar. That would explain why it did not go as deep. So that part of Gamo’s claim is true, when tested against a Beeman Kodiak.

It might appear that I’m being overly critical of the Rocket, but that is not my intent. Gamo has made some big claims for shock and penetration, and I’m trying to report the performance data I obtained along with the test I used. I tested penetration for you today – and I’ll test grouping and velocity tomorrow.

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