Archive for May 2006

Picking an airgun caliber

by B.B. Pelletier

There are a lot of ways to approach this topic. I’ll try one I haven’t done before. I’m talking about the four common smallbore calibers – .177, .20, .22 and .25.

What is .177 caliber good for?
For starters, .177 caliber is the official caliber for world-cup and Olympic target competition. No other caliber is legal. I also explained why .177 is the only competitive caliber for field target, though any caliber can be used. Seventeen-caliber pellets are the least expensive, so if you plan to do a lot of general shooting and plinking, this is the caliber to get. Some airguns don’t give you a choice. The Umarex action pistols (Walther, Beretta,
Colt, Desert Eagle and S&W, for example, come only in .177. Crosman’s 1077 rifle, a 12-shot repeater, is also a .177 exclusive.

Is a BB the same as a .177?
No. Even though some manufacturers label their BB guns as .177 caliber (or 4.5mm), that is incorrect. A steel BB is 0.171″ to 0.173″ in diameter, so it is smaller than a .177 pellet. There are some guns designed to shoot both BBs and .177 pellets, but they are not very accurate with either one because of the compromise. Usually, the lead pellets are more accurate in these guns.

What is .20 caliber good for?
Twenty caliber, or five milimeter, as it is also known, is considered a compromise caliber between .177 and .22. It is really closer to .22 in performance, but the smaller size of the .20 offers no other advantage. In some airguns, because the .20 caliber pellets are lighter, they go faster; but .177 pellets go even faster in the same guns, so this is not an advantage. The Crosman Premier pellet, which weighs the same in either .20 or .22, is more efficient in .20 caliber by a small but measurable amount because it is longer and narrower than the same pellet in .22. Crosman pulled the plug on this pellet some time back. Rhough it is supposed to be in production again, they are very difficult to find.

What is .22 caliber good for?
Twenty-two is the best hunting caliber. Not only are the pellets heavier, they are also fatter, and that combination gives them better knockdown power. Powerful rifles like the Condor and the new AR6 give great performance in the field. The Condor also has a power adjustment wheel, so it can be instantly changed into a quiet plinking rifle.

What is .25 caliber good for?
Twenty-five caliber has never enjoyed the success of .22, though it sells because some shooters want the biggest they can get. The big .22s have the same power as the big .25s, plus the .25 caliber pellets are more expensive, so you really have to want this caliber to get it.

That’s my look at picking a caliber. Let me hear your thoughts.

Shooting positions: Part 2 sitting and kneeling

by B.B. Pelletier

Start with sitting
The sitting position is one of the most stable of all, coming in just behind prone. But it can be a difficult position for many shooters to assume. The classic position is sitting with the feet planted flat and splayed apart in front of the shooter. This works okay for a very fit person; but, if your midriff is thicker, it pushes you back until you cannot maintain the position. That’s too bad because this is the No. 1 position of choice for field target shooting.

The classic sitting position has the legs splayed out with the heels dug in.

The classic sitting position with the legs splayed apart with the heels dug into the ground separately depends on finding just the right piece of ground upon which to sit. If you can’t find what you need, there is a better way to sit.

Truss me – I know what I’m doing!
The sitting position is SO popular that a harness has been developed to strap the legs in place and keep the shooter upright. You’ll notice that the shooter in the picture isn’t heavy, he’s just an older man. As we age, the muscles in our backs get shorter and tighter, and this can do the same thing as a big belly, so the harness is most helpful for older shooters.

This field target shooter wears a harness that allows him to cross his ankles.

Tip 3. Cross your legs!
Instead of planting your heels apart, if you cross your legs at the ankles when you sit like the shooter in the picture, most of the pressure will come off your back. This relaxes you while sitting, but it also removes the knee as a shooting platform. The shooter in the picture has his legs held up by the harness, and he’s using his knee to rest the rifle. But notice that he has a pad on his knee that elevates the rifle so his eye is in the correct position for sighting. The same thing can be done when the legs are crossed without a harness, if you make a rifle brace to stretch from your crossed leg up to where you want the rifle to rest. This rest will be about four times longer than the pad in the picture, or about 10 inches long. Experiment to find the right length for you. All it takes is a board with a Y on either end.

Tip 4. The ankle roll
The kneeling position is easier to assume than sitting for most people, but it has one serious drawback. Your butt sits back on the off leg, putting a lot of pressure on the ankle. It’s no problem for anyone but a three-position target shooter because a roll of padding can be inserted under the ankle for support. In the target shooting world, they frown on additional supports and, depending on what level of competition you shoot at, the rules about ankle rolls can be daunting.

The kneeling shooter sits back on the off leg, putting great pressure on the ankle. A roll of padding between the ankle and the ground relieves the pressure to a large extent.

Next time I’ll address the question we received about controlling muzzle flip in a pistol.

Hunting Master Evanix AR6: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

The rifle was scoped with a Bug Buster 2 6X scope. The scope base of the AR6 is long enough to permit the installation of very large scopes, but I find I can get the Bug Buster sighted-in in half the time, so I tend to use it a lot more.

I filled the rifle to 3,000 psi and shot it for velocity, first. I shot 28-grain Eun Jin pellets, which were made for powerful .22 air rifles like this. There were 22 good shots ranging from a low of 930 to a high of 977 f.p.s. A median velocity of 954 f.p.s. delivers 56.6 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That’s less energy than either the Career 707 or the Condor, but nearly equal to a .22 short and well beyond anything a Swedish or British PCP delivers.

A pressure gauge is built into the bottom of the forearm.

After the first 22 shots, the velocity dropped pretty fast. All shots were with the hammer cocked, which gives the highest power. If you just pull the trigger, the power will be much lower, giving more shots per fill. This would be one good way to shoot lighter pellets such as the JSBs.

The Beeman Kodiak was the most accurate pellet, because I waited to shoot them until after firing the first three cylinders of Eun Jins. That way, their velocity was in the 900s, instead of supersonic. They grouped under one inch at 40 yards on a day with blustery winds ranging from 5 to 15 mph. A more powerful scope and a calmer day would probably stretch the distance for one-inch groups to at least 50 yards. Eun Jin pellets were nearly as accurate as Kodiaks, and so were JSBs (shot after the pressure dropped).

To load the rifle, first pop the cylinder (the gun comes with two) out of the right side of the receiver. It’s held in by spring-loaded ball bearings front and rear, so direct pressure from the side pops it out. Once out, each chamber must be loaded from the front, not the back. A shelf inside the back of each chamber makes this necessary. The pellets are pushed in until their base presses against this shelf. This loading method means no out-of-round pellets can be loaded, because their deformed skirts will not enter the chamber. All Korean revolving rifles have this feature, so I was ready for it.

The 6-shot cylinder loads from the front. This is a Eun Jin ready to be pushed down. A seated pellet is seen just below it.

Firing behavior
I was pleasantly surprised by a lack of harsh muzzle report from this new AR6. It’s a loud airgun, of course, but nothing like the Career 707 or the Condor. If I were a hunter, I’d like the gentle behavior of the new rifle, which is why I made the comment earlier that the power and accuracy appear to be refined.

Hunters now have another good rifle they can choose. Disregard the low price and concentrate on the power, accuracy and nice features. This new AR6 is a real contender.

Hunting Master Evanix AR6: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The Hunting Master AR6 is a much-refined version of the rifle that started the influx of Korean PCP rifles in this country in the 1990s.

One sharp-eyed reader spotted this new Hunting Master AR6 on the Pyramyd website, and I had a chance to test one, so I thought I’d give you an advanced look at a fine new hunting rifle today.

The AR6 has been around a long time
This was the first Korean PCP imported into the U.S. Back in the early 1990s, a much rougher looking AR6 surprised Americans with unheard-of power and accuracy. At a time when British single-shot PCPs developed 20 foot-pounds and Sweden was still years in the future, the AR6 popped on the scene. It offered 50+ foot-pounds and 1″ groups at 50 yards. Overnight, American airgunsmiths began modifying this bag of raw potential.

The early rifles were very raw!
Early AR6s had the traditional Korean two-piece forearm and buttstock with the low comb that made scopes hard to use. The action was as rough as a goat-gnawed can, and the double-action trigger had a pull weight of 40 lbs.! So, the only practical way to shoot the early guns was to cock the hammer for each of the 6 shots.

Still, the early rifles were very accurate, and they had the power to stabilize heavier pellets than American hunters had ever used, plus they were the first PCP repeaters anyone had seen. The AR6 changed the face of airgun hunting in this country. When the Career 707 came along in 1995, it was smoother, even more powerful and had a lever action that could be slicked-up easier than the revolving mechanism of the AR6.

A lack of support killed the AR6
The AR6 was dropped by the larger airgun dealers, leaving sales to the smaller “hobby” dealers (people who are not serious dealers – they come and go overnight). Support for the guns vanished and so did sales, as rifles like the Career and Sam Yang made their grand entrances. By 1996, a few American airgunsmiths had slicked up the AR6 to fire double-action with just 18 lbs. of effort, but by then the days of the Hunting Master were over. I still see these older rifles changing hands for very little money.

This rifle is an entirely new, third-generation rifle. The manufacturer listened carefully to what Pyramyd Air told them American hunters want in an air rifle. It has a walnut stock that’s been correctly profiled for scope use. A large single-tube reservoir holds enough air for 20 full-power shots with heavy Korean pellets. The double-action trigger-pull is down around 12-14 lbs., which is actually usable for the first time. The single-stage, single-action pull is a crisp 3 lbs. And the power and accuracy seem refined, making the new AR6 an affordable option to the more expensive British and Swedish repeaters.

On Monday, I’ll tell you some things I learned while shooting this new AR6. If you’re in the market for a hunting air rifle, put this one on your list.

Walther LP53: The James Bond airgun!

by B.B. Pelletier

A deluxe LP53 is cased but does not have the optional barrel weights. Two spare sight inserts (both front and rear) compliment those already on the gun. This late model does not have the wooden cocking knob.

Fred mentioned he owned a Walther LP53, and I was reminded what a wonderful air pistol it is, so today I thought I’d share my observations.

The LP53 (LP stands for luft pistole – German for air pistol) was an early (1953-1983) attempt at making a .177 target pistol. It copied the lines of Walther’s famous .22 LR Olympia target pistol, and it used a spring piston to compress the air. When you look at the pistol, you wonder where the spring and piston could be, but they are tucked away inside the pistol grip.

Hard to cock
The gun is a breakbarrel, and the triggerguard serves as a long cocking link. The mechanical advantage of the cocking mechanism is not very good, so the pistol is somewhat difficult to cock for the relatively low power it generates. Walther recognized this and provided a wooden cocking knob that fits over the front sight to give you as much leverage as possible. It’s a funky way of cocking an air pistol, and many owners love it for that, alone.

Recoil simulator?
The piston springs almost straight upward inside the grip when the gun is fired. Walther touted this as a “recoil simulator,” making the air pistol feel like a .22 rimfire, but the truth is that it just feels funny in your shooting hand. It’s more like a jolt than a recoil.

James Bond
The LP53 is all metal with beautifully formed plastic grip panels. The early pistols had a beavertail extension that curved down over the web of the hand; later guns also had an extension, but it was straight. The trigger blade is thin and elegant – looking exactly like a firearm trigger. In fact, there’s nothing about the LP53 that doesn’t look right, which is why the movie posters for early James Bond films show him holding an air pistol instead of his service PPK.

Targets, only!
For all its racy looks, the LP53 is a pussycat, generating barely more than 300 f.p.s. with lightweight .177 pellets. The piston stroke is very short and the bore is small enough to fit inside the grip, so there isn’t much air to compress. At 10 meters, however, the low power is all that’s needed to punch bullseyes. Walther included three front sight posts and three rear sight notch inserts with the gun, so shooters could fine-tune the sight picture. While it will never keep up with a real 10-meter target pistol, an LP53 will shoot nickel-sized groups at 33 feet when the shooter does his best.

For those who wanted the best, a deluxe version of the gun came in a blue satin-lined hard case with barrel weights – very similar to the Olympia pistol it copied. The case was small, but it housed a real treasure! Most guns have a fixed trigger, but there is a rare adjustable version that’s known. There is also a very rare LP52 that was made for ony one year.

Shooting positions: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This one was requested by the CF-X guy, but it applies to all of us. I could draw fancy diagrams and discuss pressure points and fulcrums ad infinitum, but there are already many books on the subject that do it better. Besides – it doesn’t work! What I’m saying is that there is no “standard” shooting position that is worth the time to listen to, if you intend to “learn” the position. There are a great number of good tips, however.

Tip 1: In the offhand position, placement of the feet is important!
I learned this when I was a baseball pitcher. It’s called control. If you have a practiced pitch motion with good follow-through, how you place your feet determines where the ball goes. I could keep the ball within 12 inches side-to-side at the plate just by how and where I placed my feet. Unfortunately, my 70 mph fastball meant that I was supposed to be a teacher.

Foot placement also works for rifles, shotguns and handguns. It doesn’t matter if you hold your pistol with two hands or rest the forearm of your rifle stock on your knuckles. What you do is get into your firing stance with your eyes closed, take aim and open your eyes. The orientation of your sights tells you how you have to move your feet. Keep adjusting until you are on target – then stop moving your feet!

Tip 1.a: Fine-tuning your feet
You can move just one foot at a time by rotating it left or right a few inches, with the heel remaining in place (or the ball of the foot). This makes small adjustments in your orientation, and it tensions or relaxes your legs at the same time. I shoot competitive 10-meter air pistol, and I like to have both legs under some tension. After I find my position, I fine-tune my feet this way.

Tip 2: Prone position
When I shot competitive 3-position rifle in college, I learned something about the prone position. The first thing is that the placement of your legs determines where you aim (the legs, again!). I had an anal coach who insisted that a shooter’s feet had to lie flat on their sides in the prone position. That didn’t work for me (he actually stood on my foot and couldn’t force it to flatten!), but he did teach me something else that was important. You know how young people sometimes jiggle their legs nervously? Well, I learned that the same movement gets transmitted to the muzzle of the gun, and you’ll never hit anything with your feet flopping around. So, get those legs into a position where the feet can’t flop.

The other tip in prone is to get the forearm of your supporting hand directly under the rifle, so you feel no weight from the rifle. Your forearm acts like a monopod. This relieves all the stress in your supporting arm muscles. Move your elbow from side to side to accomplish this.

I have more tips like this, but I’d like to know that you want them. As I said, there are whole books on shooting positions, so I am going to take a different tack in addressing the issue.

Can a common BB gun be accurate?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I’ll venture into an unknown realm – BB gun accuracy. Most shooters feel that anytime a BB gun can keep five shots inside an inch at 20 feet, it’s doing pretty good! So, let’s see if we can learn to do better.

No ringers allowed!
There are some BB guns that can hit aspirin at 20 feet regularly – from the offhand position! The Daisy Avanti Champion 499 comes to mind. In fact, it is the 499 that inspired today’s posting, because it was developed with accuracy in mind. Before it was created in 1976, shooting coaches all around America pooled their knowledge to make a shooter out of the Daisy 299 – a regular BB gun that sported target sights. There was nothing special about the 299, but Jaycee coaches re-learned an accuracy secret that marksmen in Ohio discovered around 1850: if you shoot a round ball from a smoothbore gun, the closer the ball fits the bore, the more accurate it will be. I’ve read accounts where these gentlemen shot 2″ five-shot groups at 100 yards!

The barrel search
The coaches figured that if they could find the tightest barrels, their guns would be most accurate. And, from a conversation I had with one of them, that’s how it worked out. He told me the thing to do in those pre-499 days was to be “in” with someone at Daisy who would let you test dozens of shot tubes before buying a few. You didn’t have to live near the plant – just be prompt about returning the shot tubes you didn’t want. Daisy was very proud of the World BB Gun Championships, and they wanted to see kids do well.

Airsoft does it, too!
Let’s not overlook the fact that for airsoft guns, a more accurate barrel is always a tighter barrel. I know a sniper who insists he can hit a 12″x12″ target at 100 yards on a calm day. Of course, when you start using a tighter barrel, you also have to use the more expensive ground shot.

The results
A tight barrel could make the old Daisy 299 shoot half-inch groups at the regulation 5 meters. I’ve heard of some that were a little better. So the tight barrel really is the way to make a smoothbore shoot a round ball better. But what can you do if you can’t cherry-pick through shot tubes?

If you can’t make the barrel smaller, make the BB bigger!
There are a couple ways to do this. One is to sort through new BBs from different manufacturers until you find the largest BBs. Then, look through your BB guns for the one with the smallest barrel. Putting the two together should give you an edge up on the competition. Another tactic is to locate a supply of lead balls that are larger than BBs. I did this with a No. 25 pump gun, and I got groups of less than one inch at 20 feet. With steel, I was getting 2.5″ to 3″.

It’s all academic
With the 499 so available today, we don’t have to go through the gyrations coaches went through before 1976. In fact, this same information can be transferred to other types of guns, including the pellet guns we all love so much. The fit of a pellet to the bore of your rifle is also quite important.

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.