Archive for June 2006

Desert Eagle: First impressions, part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, we’ll finish the Desert Eagle story.

The sights are a ramp-type square post in front and a wide square notch in the rear. The rear sight adjusts laterally for windage by means of a single jam screw. Loosen it and slide the sight in the direction you want to move the pellet. The manual says the front sight is set up for shooting at 10 meters, and that’s exactly what I saw. A 6 o’clock hold on a standard 10-meter pistol target at 25 feet netted me a score of 45, for five nines clustered around the center.

All five shots from 25 feet landed in the nine ring. I used Gamo Match pellets.

Trigger action
This pistol is both double- and single-action. If you pull the trigger with the hammer down, it cocks and releases the hammer, which is double-action. When the slide blows back, it cocks the hammer, allowing a single-action pull. Double-action breaks at 7 lbs., 10 oz., and single-action breaks at 3 lbs., 9 oz.

The safety is ambidextrous and allows the full functioning of the trigger and hammer when applied. I wondered at the wisdom of that before realizing that it’s the perfect dry-fire feature. You can shoot the gun in safety, knowing that gas cannot be released with the safety on. Of course the 8-shot clip should be removed from the gun for complete safety. The trigger feels the same whether the safety is on or off.

Be careful how you grip the pistol!
During chronographing, I sometimes found myself gripping the moving slide as the pistol fired. This lowered the velocity anywhere from 50 to 100 f.p.s. If you decide to shoot with two hands, make sure neither one rubs against the slide, which you can see in yesterday’s report, Desert Eagle, First impressions, part 2. You can’t feel the slide move beneath your fingers, so don’t go by the feel. Look to see that you clearly are not touching the slide!

In summary…

  • The quoted velocity is 315 f.p.s. The gun I tested shot between 450 and 500 f.p.s. with the type of pellets a shooter would pick for this airgun – wadcutters.
  • There’s a lot of plastic in this gun, but it’s engineering plastic – similar to the frames of the Ruger 22/45 Mark III. Also, the pistol is heavy.
  • The Desert Eagle is at least as accurate as the S&W 586 and 686 revolvers.
  • The test gun got three clips-worth of shots per CO2 cartridge. That’s a total of 24 shots.
  • There are mounting rails for optics, lasers and tactical lights, so the pistol doesn’t have to remain plain vanilla for long.

  • Mounting rails on top and beneath let you dress the Desert Eagle like a tactical powerhouse.

    I think my reports have addressed all your questions. If not, ask away!

    Desert Eagle: First impressions, part 2

    by B.B. Pelletier

    Today, I’ll load the gun, shoot through an Alpha Chrony and have a go at some targets. But first, a few of the features I haven’t mentioned yet.

    Rails, rails!
    The Desert Eagle comes with a Picatinny rail permanently on top of the slide and another rail you can install underneath (shown installed on the Pyramyd Air website). Most owners will want to dress their gun, so the under rail is a great place for a laser or a tactical light. A red dot goes on top (a scope is possible, too).

    It’s a true semiautomatic!
    Besides the blowback feature that gives a recoil impulse, the Desert Eagle is a true semiautomatic pellet pistol. The removable pellet clip is a revolving cylinder like all other Umarex pellet pistols, but all the work is done by the blowback slide. The hammer is cocked, AND the cylinder is advanced for the next shot. Therefore, the trigger-pull is lighter than if you were also advancing the clip.

    The slide is shown as far back as it goes. Notice that the top of the barrel does not move, so an optical sight would be stable. The spanner that opens the CO2 chamber is shown to the left the grip.

    The trigger
    I can’t say that I like the trigger. It has a very long first stage, and then the second stage is rather vague with lots of soft creep. I would like to see this feature improved, if possible. When you combine the trigger with a VERY large grip frame, I have to struggle to shoot one-handed. And that is my real complaint. I have never cared to shoot a handgun with two hands. Those who do will have an easier time of it with this pistol, although you do have to keep your hands off the slide, which isn’t easy.

    To load, press down on the disassembly latch and the front of the slide springs forward, revealing a large hole for the clip. Just drop it in with the pellets pointed forward and the gun takes care of the rest. This is by far the easiest Umarex pistol to load!

    Press down on the disassembly latch, and the front of the slide springs forward for clip access. This is the easiest-loading Umarex pistol.

    The Smith & Wesson 586 revolver now has some competition! The Desert Eagle is wonderfully accurate. I shot a great first target with it, before the flies and mosquitos discovered me. At 25 feet, I could keep all my shots on a pop bottle cap, which makes the gun a super plinker. I suppose with a red dot sight, that would improve somewhat.

    Gamo Match pellets were the best of the three I tried (the others were H&N Finale Match and RWS Hobby). They actually shot rings around H&N Finale Match, which doesn’t happen too often. Stock up on them if you get this gun.

    Velocity and gas use
    Well, it’s a hot airgun, and it uses gas like a Hummer! The temperature where I shot was 80 degrees F and there was strong sunlight. With RWS Hobbys, I got a couple shots over 500 f.p.s. and the average was in the 490s. Gamo Match pellets were in the 460-470 range, and H&N Match were in the high 450s.

    I could only get three clips of shots per CO2 cartridge. That’s 24 shots, and the final five were dropping in velocity. A shot or two later, the gun went full-auto for a couple of shots and exhausted its gas. I tried the gun with eight different CO2 cartridges and the results were the same, so I’m pretty sure this is representative. The Crosman 451 was similar in that respect, so it looks like the blowback function comes at a cost.

    I’ll finish tomorrow.

    Desert Eagle: First impressions, part 1

    by B.B. Pelletier

    A package arrived from Germany yesterday. It contained goodies that I will use to keep you amused for the next several weeks. Like a CARE package at summer camp, I went straight to the chocolate chip cookies – the new Magnum Research Desert Eagle.

    SO – how’s it hangin’?
    There has been a lot of jabber about this pistol from airgunners in the UK, where it has been available for some time. The main comment heard is that the gun is too “plastic-y.” Well – what’s the deal? It IS mostly plastic on the outside, but can you say Glock? This is engineering plastic, not the blowmolded styrene of Taiwanese toys. I imagine our British cousins are not familiar with the modern synthetics used in handguns, but you can’t buy a simple Ruger 22/45 Mark III pistol and not touch plastic.

    The Desert Eagle is heavy! Weighing 2 lbs., 8.7 oz. (40.7 oz./1,153.83 grams) with a fresh 12-gram cartridge installed, this AIR pistol is within half a pound of an M1911A1 Colt .45 ACP FIREARM! And, it’s LARGE! The grip is identical to the one on the Desert Eagle Mark XIX. To quote my wife, “That is a BIG gun!”

    You better read the manual
    When most CO2 pistols arrive, I have them through their first field test before I look to see if they sent a manual. With this pistol, however, I had to read the book from the start. Even then I didn’t get it right the first time. Like loading the first CO2 cartridge. It was obvious where it went – the hole at the bottom of the grip, and a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip goes without saying (but I said it anyway). But, when I screwed the cap tight and pulled the trigger, nothing happened. Oh, the trigger pulled and the hammer cycled like it’s supposed to, but the gun didn’t fire. So, I began experimenting with the tension on the CO2 cap. From very tight to so loose it began exhausting gas inside the grip – but no shooting.

    The CO2 cartridge drops in the hole covered by the brass cap. The cap is flush with the bottom of the grip, leaving NOTHING hanging down. That was requested by many, who said it would be okay if a tool was needed to tighten the cap. The Desert Eagle comes with a separate spanner for this job.

    I was so frustrated because I had followed the manual perfectly, or did I? Like a soldier caught in a minefield, I began retracing my steps exactly until I arrived at the point of putting on the safety. All manuals tell you to put on the safety when installing a new CO2 cartridge, but guess what. THIS manual doesn’t tell you to take it OFF before firing! Well, duh!

    Of course, I know the gun won’t shoot with the safety on, but that didn’t stop me from having a frustrating 15-minute episode before figuring the thing out. Even with the safety on, the trigger and hammer continue to function normally. I think I won’t be the only person this happens to.

    Safety off
    BAM! Just what you’d expect, and the blowback action is definitely there. It’s not the bounce of the PPK/S, but more like the quick snap of a heavy .22 target pistol. The world has not had a blowback pellet pistol since Crosman stopped making the 451 way back in 1970!

    Velocity, accuracy, number of shots – these are just a few of the things I haven’t told you yet. Stick around!

    Teach a person to shoot: Part 1

    by B.B. Pelletier

    I promised several readers I’d address the subject of teaching people to shoot. We talked about teaching kids, but why limit it?

    Determine the level of the budding shooter’s maturity
    Maturity is more important than age when it comes to shooting. Since the shooter will ultimately have total control of a device that can kill, he or she must be worthy of that level of trust. Don’t make the mistake that because we are talking airguns that it makes a difference. It doesn’t. A person who can load and fire a pellet pistol can also load and fire a powerful firearm.

    Observe the potential shooter’s actions
    Whether the person is five or fifty makes no difference. If they cannot concentrate on what they are doing, or if they are prone to horseplay, don’t teach them to shoot. I have seen plenty of adults horse around with airguns, claiming that they are just BB guns, after all. Some of the guns they horsed around with were as powerful as .22 rimfires and, in a few cases, they were big bore air rifles capable of killing larger game. Do not waste time trying to teach these people anything.

    Weed them out!
    When I coached youth shooting teams, during the first through third meetings a small number of kids were eliminated from further participation. We always insisted that a parent or guardian be present during these early sessions. (I would NOT recommend an older sibling, because you don’t know whether THAT person is trustworthy, either.) If little Bobby couldn’t stop talking, running around or touching the guns when he wasn’t supposed to, we sent him home. The parents had already read and signed a contract that gave the coaches the power to do that, and we never had a single instance of a parent objecting to our decision. We didn’t do it very often, and we suffered a lot of misbehavior from Bobby before making the call, so the parent was prepared for what we had to do.

    If you’re training a single person or your own children, you need to be just as attentive to their misbehavior. Don’t try to train a child to shoot in the false belief that it will somehow mature him/her. While learning a discipline, such as shooting, can increase maturity, there are some people who should not be permitted to participate – and finding them is the first prime duty of the instructor.

    You must be able to trust the shooter
    Before very long, a coach has to be able to trust the student with a loaded gun. Yes, it’s easier to control them when it’s one-on-one, but at some point every new shooter will be in complete control of the gun. You must be able to trust them entirely when that time comes.

    First, train them on safety
    While all this observation is taking place, you are training the new shooter(s) on safety. Start with gun safety and don’t advance until they know everything as well as you. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has developed numerous safety training programs that can help a shooting instructor. They even offer instructor training courses, which I highly recommend to anyone who is about to do a lot of firearms training. Their Airgun Shooting Sports Safety Guide, the first 10 pages of which are available on the internet, is an important resource for instructors.

    In the next installment, I’ll discuss how to make the shooter as aware of safety as the instructor. I’ll also share tips on how to test a student without sounding like it’s a test.

    Spring gun tuning: Part 1

    by B.B. Pelletier

    Before we begin, let me announce that the last of the British-made Webley airguns are now in! Pyramyd Air bought the entire remaining stock of guns, so look through the Webley pages now. When these are gone, there won’t be any more!

    I’m going to show you the fundamental steps to tune a spring gun. Although I won’t show every kind of gun, I will talk about how underlevers and sidelevers differ from breakbarrels. If you’re clever enough to do this kind of work, you’ll be able to figure out the particulars for yourself. I’m just going to show you the important points to get you started.

    We’ll begin by looking at the tools and supplies needed to work on spring guns. I assume you have a standard set of tools and all the screwdrivers and Allen wrenches you need for any job. If you don’t have them all now, get them as you need them. Never try to make one tool do the job of another – that’s how accidents happen and mistakes are made.

    Pin punches
    You need a good set of these, because there are hundreds of uses for them when working on spring guns. We will use them from the beginning, so get a small set of punches right away. Airgunsmiths need small punches, because most of the pins encountered are small. I bought my set at Sears, and it has four punches – 1/16″, 3/32″, 1/8″, 5/32″, plus a 5/32″ alignment tool.

    Plastic and rubber-headed hammer
    This is also a general tool that’s used all the time. Get one that’s small and handy to use. This kind of hammer is essential. You can buy one at Sears or Home Depot; if you like shopping on internet, try Boston Industrial. They have one for $2.10.

    A hammer with rubber and plastic heads is an essential tool for the airgunsmith.

    A vice
    Vices are not as useful as you might think. Spring gun tuners have very little need for vices, save one. A fine, inexpensive mainspring compressor can be made with the right kind of vice. I will give you the plans for how to build a compressor, and I’ll also tell you where to buy one if you don’t want to build it.

    Dowel rods and rubber bands
    Get at least one half-inch hardwood dowel. You’ll use it to lubricate the mainspring cylinder. If you have a screwdriver with an 18″ long blade, it can take the place of the dowel. Also, get a supply of thin rubber bands, to use with the dowel. I will explain what to do when we get there. A dowel 36″ long is more than enough. All you need for most jobs is about 18″.

    Lubricants are a major part of a spring-piston tuner’s bag of tricks. Ten years ago, the market had the products you needed and they were easy to find. For example, Beeman sold M-2-M moly paste that was wonderful stuff. Well, they don’t sell it anymore, so you now have to buy your lubricants elsewhere. I want you to at least get black tar and moly paste. I’m sending you to Air Rifle Headquarters for these things. They are also an excellent source for replacement mainsprings, piston seals, spring guides and other important parts you will need to tune a gun. They have already created drop-in tuning kits for many popular spring rifles like the Benjamin Legacy and the FWB 124/127. So, this is a place you aspiring tuners need to bookmark.

    Next time we’ll look at mainspring compressors, and I’ll show you how to make one for less than $20.

    Air canes! Part 2

    by B.B. Pelletier

    There’s a lot of interest in tuning a spring-piston air rifle, so I’ll start a series on that next week. I’ll intersperse other topics so everybody has something to read. I’ll also show you how to make a few special tools that are necessary to do this work. I hope this will help everyone visualize what’s inside those spring guns!

    Today, I’ll finish the air cane discussion. There wasn’t a lot of interest in this topic, but I’d wager if you ever saw a cane firing, you’d become interested!

    “It’s a pity they aren’t made anymore!”
    One reader said that. But air canes HAVE been made in modern times. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, Beeman sold a cane made by British maker Harper. It was .25 caliber, which probably detracted from its success. Canes of old were big bore and impressive! Gary Barnes made a .272 caliber 12-shot full-auto cane around the year 2000. It’s on page 96 of the Blue Book of Airguns and is valued at $6,000. When it fires, the entire magazine dumps in less than a second, and you can’t hear the individual shots.

    They probably were used for self-defense!
    This is another myth. To make a cane ready to shoot takes a lot of time. And, you’d never carry one cocked and loaded! So, self-defense is a role they are not suited for. I believe, along with most advanced collectors, that the very fact they exist at all is their main attraction. They are science experiments you can use to amaze your friends – just like the air rifle carried by Meriwether Lewis on his famous exploration in 1803/1806.

    Some unusual models!
    In part one, we saw a straight cane, but a more unusual model is the bent cane. Just as the name suggests, these canes have an artistic bend in their reservoirs. They are scarcer than straight canes and command more money. Some bent canes also come cased with additional fowling buttstocks that look like rifle butts. These sets are valued much higher than the bent canes by themselves.

    Bent cane on top, ball flask cane below.

    Above the bent canes in value come the shillelagh models. They are straight canes with spots of weld on the outside to look like Irish blackthorn branches. They are exquisitely made and can bring as much as $3,000 to $4,000 for a good one. Unfortunately, only a real cane collector knows their true worth. I’ve seen gun dealers asking as much as $9,000 for them because they think they are unique. That’s like saying a Checker Marathon is unique. It is if you’ve never seen one, I suppose.

    The top o’ the line!
    The finest air canes are cased and engraved in deep bas relief. They are mounted with gold fittings and have every accessory they came with, including the original instructions. Many of these guns are fire-blued as only tradesmen in the 19th century knew how to do it. They start at $20,000 and go upward.

    Ball reservoir is removed to reveal the breech of the barrel (though this cane is a muzzleloader) and the firing valve inside the brass reservoir.

    The Mona Lisa of air canes
    There aren’t many known examples of ball-flask air canes, and a beautiful one was on display at the Little Rock airgun expo this year. It was made close to the end of the ball-flask era, which was around 1800. We know that from the design of the lock and flask. It is a shillelagh design with a difference. Instead of welded spots on a steel cane, this one has been expertly fitted into a genuine blackthorn casing that runs the full length of the cane. Carving blackthorn is equivalent to filing titanium.

    A blackthorn branch was hollowed out to serve as the outer covering of the rare ball-flask air cane.

    I hope my brief report has stimulated some interest in this fascinating niche within the airgunning world.

    Important news!

    by B.B. Pelletier

    I’m using today’s blog to update you on a couple of important things that have come up.

    Remington Genesis adjustable cheekpiece
    The Remington Genesis comes to you with an adjustable cheekpiece. Crosman made the decision to mention it after the box art was finalized, so they are putting stickers on the box. The stickers say the following:


    Your airgun is equipped with an adjustable cheek piece to accommodate standard sights (lower position) or a scope (higher position).

    To adjust the cheek piece from one position to the other, drive the pins out of the cheek piece starting from the right side. With the pins removed move the cheek piece to the desired position, lining up the holes in the cheek piece with the holes in the stock. Drive the pins back into the cheek piece.

    There is nothing on the Crosman website about this yet. They will be rewriting the manual to include the procedure in the future, but all of you know it now!

    This sticker on the genesis box alerts buyers to the adjustable cheekpiece. Thanks to Crosman for providing this image.

    My thanks to Crosman for clearing up this mystery for me.

    Remington Genesis accuracy
    As you know, I am breaking-in the Genesis for an additional test before I tell you the final accuracy. However, a friend of one of our readers made an important observation. After the rifle is cocked, the barrel can be pushed downward slightly at the muzzle. That affects accuracy. The cause of this can be any of a number of things, but I think the solution will be simple.

    When I shoot the rifle for record after the break-in, I’ll intentionally push the barrel up and shoot groups, then I’ll do the same after pushing it down. One of those two methods should give us more consistent groups. I’m thinking that pushing down is the answer, but we’ll see.

    You HAVE to laugh…
    …to keep from crying! The airsoft community has just announced a fin-stabilized “BB” that is more accurate! MORE ACCURATE! For what? To hit players at a greater distance, of course! What’s so funny about that?

    What’s funny is that airsoft was conceived as a way to allow collectors in countries having no gun rights to own gun-like things they can hold in their hands. The SOFT part was to appease the affected society – to keep such “guns” safe! And, now, after 26 years, the airsoft community wants a more accurate projectile to shoot people with!

    It’s called the RAP4 Airfin, and it’s expected to launch this September.

    Oh, look! Another person has discovered the immutable laws of aerodynamics! The RAP4 Airfin is poised to take the world of airsoft players back to school!

    But that’s not what’s so funny. To make the new projectile work, it has to be loaded into a “shell casing” (if airsoft designers knew anything about firearms they would have called it a cartridge) to function in the gun!

    Here’s what’s going to happen. All the boys and girls who are not content hosing their friends with 1,000 plastic BBs a minute from their $800 highly modified M4s are going to buy one of the new RAP4 guns, only to discover that a cartridge is involved and the ability to spray and pray goes away! They will have to load magazines manually, rather than pouring plastic balls into a hopper. They will also have to load the “shell casings” manually after every use. They’ll even have to pick them up off the ground after they are ejected. Oh, my gosh – will THAT suck the fun out!

    Tomorrow I’ll get to part 2 of the air canes.

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