Archive for November 2006

Drozd BB machine gun – bulk-fill! – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I have an announcement. The Crosman 2200 I was testing for you is not performing consistently enough for an accuracy test, so I’m sending it off to be overhauled. Until I get it back, that final report will have to wait.

Pyramyd’s bulk-fill Drozd is a full-auto airgunner’s dream.

There’s a lot of interest in BB machine guns these days, and the Drozd is the most available and affordable of the few that are on the market. I reviewed it for you on August 22, 2005, but that was the basic gun. Today I’ll start a long look at the model Pyramyd Air has converted to bulk-fill.

Bulk fill
Three things keep the Drozd shooting – BBs, CO2 and six AA batteries. The BBs fit in a removable stick magazine that holds 30 at a time. The batteries last a long time, so the only other thing to worry about is the CO2. Because the Drozd is both powerful and fast-firing, you’ll go through a 12-gram cartridge pretty quick. With Pyramyd Air’s bulk-fill conversion, you’ll have more shots than you know what to do with. And, they’ll be cheaper, because bulk gas runs less than CO2 cartridges.

The adapter accepts any standard paintball tank, and Pyramyd supplies a huge 20-oz. tank with the gun. It attaches to a dummy cartridge by a flexible hose that allows the magazine to be removed for loading. Once the tank is connected, there’s no need to take it off until it’s empty, however nothing prevents you from removing it at any time and no gas is lost.

Size and weight
The tank adds length to the gun, turning it from a large machine pistol into a submachine gun. It functions as a shoulder stock, too. The entire setup with batteries, a full tank and BBs weighs about 6 lbs. and is 25.6″ overall. Compare that to the standard gun that weighs 3.5 lbs. and measures 13.75″ overall. The weight of the tank in back shifts the balance from the front to the rear, but if you keep the tank tucked under your arm, Rambo-style, the balance feels right.

This gun is controlled entirely by electronics. When you pull the trigger, a solenoid, instead of a mechanical piston, fires the gun. A circuit board controls the number of times the gun fires with one pull of the trigger and the number of rounds per minute it fires. Because the powerplant is CO2, the gun cannot shoot continuously or the action would freeze up. It’s been set up to fire either one shot per trigger-pull or bursts of three or six shots.

The gun has three controls. A power switch that doubles as a safety, a selector switch that determines the number of shots with one pull of the trigger and another switch that controls the rate of fire or cyclic rate. The gun can be fired as a semiautomatic, or in the burst mode of three or six shots. The rates of fire are 300, 450 and 600 rounds per minute.

The power switch is on the right. In the down position, as it is now, a red light indicates the circuit is live. That means the gun is ready to fire. The selector switch on the left selects 1 shot (semiautomatic), three- or six-shot bursts.

The cyclic switch determines the rate of fire (rounds per minute).

I’ll be testing this rifle for accuracy with steel BBs and lead balls. I’ll show the results so you can decide which is better. I’m beginning to understand that the Drozd is more like an airsoft gun than an airgun, so perhaps I have been thinking about it the wrong way. It seems that the most avid shooters want the sound of full-auto fire over the last bit of accuracy and power.

RWS Diana 54 – Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Let’s look at the accuracy of the Diana RWS 54, plus a few things I have learned from testing it.

The range
I picked a bad day to test a pellet rifle. The wind was blowing 10-20 mph, so I had to shoot through it. There was no waiting for the wind to calm down; it never did! Therefore, the distance was reduced from the hoped-for 50 yards to a more conservative 35 yards. We know the rifle is shooting well (.22 Crosman Premiers at 800 f.p.s.), so it should be able to tough out these conditions.

The mount
I promised to show you this, so here it is. I used a B-Square AA 1-piece mount and hung the scope stop pin in front of the Diana scope rail. When the mount tries to back up, the pin prevents it. It’s simple and it works. From the picture, you should be able to see why a 2-piece mount won’t work.

The front of the Diana scope rail will be used to stop the mount from moving.

The mount extends past the rail on the receiver so the stop pin can be butted against the rail. It looks odd, but it works.

The scope
I used a Sightron SII 4-16×42 scope. Although expensive (over $670), this scope is very compact for its power. It’s more the size of a 3-12x, so it doesn’t hang over the rifle’s loading port. That’s an important feature for a sidelever or underlever, because a too-long scope can get in the way of easy loading.

Sightron SII is a compact 4-16x scope. It’s pricey but very clear and bright.

I had sighted in the rifle before this day, so it was already pretty close to the mark. I had to crank the rear ring 2.5 turns higher than the front ring to compensate for a bad case of barrel droop. Without an adjustable mount, it would have been impossible to sight in this rifle.

I started with 15.8-grain JSB Exacts, because they’re the most accurate pellet in 90 percent of the rifles I test. But the groups I got were disappointing. I was shooting off a sandbag rest and resting the stock directly on the bag – something you never do with a recoiling spring gun. I’d thought the recoil mechanism would compensate for the lack of the artillery hold, but 1″ groups at 35 yards are hardly good for a German air rifle. So, I switched to the artillery hold, with my off hand resting on the bag. No improvement.

By this point, I was wondering what was wrong with the rifle, because a 48 or a 52 will group in half an inch at 35 yards all day long. Could it be the pellet? Just as a test, I loaded and shot some .22 Crosman Premiers. The group shrank to an unexpected 0.27″ group! There was the accuracy I was looking for!

Shooting JSB Exacts, this was the best group.

Crosman Premiers tightened things up plenty!

Then, I tried shooting directly from the rest and it worked! The 54 doesn’t require the technique of a typical spring air rifle. It shoots more like a PCP. After I learned that, I had fun with the gun. On a calm day, I’m sure I could push those groups out another 10 yards.

So, this has turned out to be a very good test. The RWS Diana 54 is easy to shoot, quite accurate, recoiless from the shooter’s perspective, powerful and easy on the eye. It’s in the same class as the TX200, which is the highest praise I can give.

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics – Part 3Introduction continued

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

I’ll try to finish the intro with this post. Several of you have asked about the Whiscombe price and availability. John Whiscombe supposedly stopped building new guns several years ago, but his site is still up. If you read it, it looks like he still makes them, but the last post was in 2003. Mac-1 Airguns sold them for many years but the guns are no longer on their website, as far as I can determine. Pelaire also sold them, but they stopped before 2003. To the best of my knowledge, Whiscombe rifles are no longer being made. If anyone learns differently, please direct me to the website by posting a comment on this blog.

As it turned out, I bought the next to last JW75 made. Most of Whiscombe’s customers wanted fixed-barrel rifles, so the JW80 replaced the 75 in the last few years. My rifle came with all four barrels, as I mentioned last time, but I didn’t tell you that all four of them are set up for Whiscombe’s Harmonic Optimization Tuning System or HOTS. It’s an adjustable weight at the muzzle to allow the shooter to “tune” the barrel harmonics to the pellets being used, which is why this blog also addresses barrel harmonics. We will spend more time with the HOTS in the future. My rifle, ordered in 1996 with a thumbhole stock in Grade III walnut, came to $2,350 for everything.

The silver weight can be screwed in or out, changing the barrel vibration harmonics. It’s an adaptation of the Browning BOSS that has been used successfully for decades.

When you change pellets or calibers (which means a different barrel), the HOTS has to be retuned. If you think about all the possible combinations, you’ll see what a daunting task this can be! That’s why it’s best to stick with one good pellet per caliber and to index the HOTS weight for that. I haven’t done this yet, so I’ll use the testing I do for you to establish that for this rifle.

To demonstrate the rifle’s potential, I shot a few groups with .177 Beeman Kodiaks at 35 yards. I have no idea if these are the best pellets for the .177 barrel. Of course, the HOTS has yet to be adjusted. The results were close to the best you would get from a TX200, but not quite at the PCP level, which this rifle is capable of. I haven’t had much experience with the .177 barrel, either.

At 35 yards, this group of five Kodiaks is good for a spring gun but not quite up to precharged levels. The rifle needs to be tested to find the best pellet for this caliber, then the HOTS needs to be adjusted.

Drawback of the breakbarrel
The barrel has to clear the scope, and that is the biggest drawback to the breakbarrel model. A benefit, of course, is that the breakbarrel is easier to load. I have a 3-12x Simmons on the gun, and it works well, but I cannot mount the Leapers 8-32x that I’d really like to have. The rifle is accurate enough to warrant it.

Trigger and safety
The Whiscombe’s trigger is fully adjustable and every bit as nice as any you would find on a premium PCP. The length of the first stage is adjustable, as is the sear engagement and the pull-weight of the second stage. There is also an overtravel adjustment. Despite having to restrain several hundred pounds of force, the trigger is both light and crisp. The automatic safety is a button on top of the receiver that moves back when the rifle is cocked. If the safety hasn’t set, the rifle may not be fully cocked. I had a few occurrences with that when I was first learning about the gun. Once taken off, the safety cannot be easily reset.

Worse than a dry-fire
I told you how bad a dry-fire is, but there is something even worse. If you load the rifle first and then cock the pistons, you create a vacuum in the compression chamber. The pellet blocks the air from entering. If you shoot, the pistons are drawn together by the force of both springs and the vacuum between them. That will destroy the rifle.

Adjustable buttpad
I could have gotten an adjustable cheekrest on the rifle; since the buttpad adjusts up and down, I figured a movable cheekrest was superfluous. It’s already high enough for scope use.

Well, that’s the intro. In the coming months, I’ll use the Whiscombe to demonstrate a number of classic airgun facts, including the accuracy benefit, if any, of harmonic tuning.

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics – Part 2Introduction continued

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, there was a lot of interest in this gun, so I don’t mind showing it to you again so soon. Today, I’ll continue our walkaround introduction.

Interchangeable barrels
When I bought my Whiscombe, the fact that I could get barrels in every caliber was one of the factors that helped make the decision. I’m pretty careful with my money when it comes to expensive airguns, but the thought of having all four calibers in one air rifle seemed a bargain, even at the price I paid. Barrel changing is a short procedure, after which it is necessary to sight in the rifle again, despite the fact that the scope never moved. There is more to tell about these particular barrels, but I’ll save it for another day.

JW75 could be bought with barrels in all 4 calibers – .177, .20, .22 and .25.

Transfer port limiters
A very funny thing happened when my new rifle arrived. It wasn’t funny at the time, but as soon as I knew what was going on it became laughable. I had ordered the JW75 because it was the most powerful breakbarrel rifle I could get. I had tried one of the fixed-barrel JW80s and found it to be difficult to load, so the breakbarrel feature seemed good to me. The difference in power between a 75 and an 80 isn’t much. The 75 will pull about 30 foot-pounds, while the 80 will go 32.

The barrel raises for loading. Note the bar under the barrel. It’s held in place by twin chisel detents that keep the barrel tight in place for zero air leakage and superior accuracy. This is why I know for a fact that a breakbarrel rifle can be just as accurate as a fixed barrel, because my rifle shoots like a PCP!

But when I tested my new rifle, it shot .22 caliber Crosman Premiers at an average of 577 f.p.s., which works out to 10.57 foot-pounds. I was shocked! Had Whiscombe misunderstood and built this gun to British specifications? I didn’t know at the time that the JW75 could never be built to UK specs. I called the U.S. dealer to inquire. He laughed when I told him the problem. It seems Whiscombe ships all guns with a 12 foot-pound transfer port limiter to keep the British government happy. They know the gun is capable of 30 foot-pounds and Whiscombe has the license to export guns they consider to be firearms, but the Home Office feels it’s best if the guns get shipped at the “legal” limit (please, lie to me!). All I had to do was remove the limiter and the gun would shoot at full power. I did, and the velocity of Premiers jumped to an average of 920 f.p.s., or 26.88 foot-pounds.

That hole in the receiver is the transfer port. That’s where the limiters go. The large flat lever at the bottom opens the barrel for loading. The two chisel detents that hold the barrel in place can also be seen, This rifle is built like an artillery piece! All the metal except for the detents is dark black, but the rifle is polished to a mirror finish.

John Whiscombe had included a number of transfer port limiters with the rifle so I could try it at different power levels if I wanted. Not only did I have a gun with four calibers, I also had the ability to run the spectrum of power levels, from next to nothing clear up to the rifle’s maximum. I hadn’t known about this feature when I ordered the rifle 10 months before. If I had, the decision to buy would have been a no-brainer.

These Allen screws are the transfer port limiters. The one with the tiny hole at the bottom is the 12 foot-pound limiter that was in the gun when I got it. By removing all limiters and leaving the transfer port wide open, you get the maximum power the rifle can deliver.

We’re not finished with the introduction yet. There are still a few more surprises for next time.

Crosman 2200 – Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, this was an interesting test! The 2200 I have apparently has a hardened pump cup. It doesn’t pump as much air as it should with each pump stroke, so the gun doesn’t reach the power levels it’s supposed to.

Remember that the 2200 Magnum is a .22. I tried Crosman Premiers, RWS Meisterkugeln and RWS Hobbys. At first, I tried a Premier with 10 pumps. Velocity ranged from 433 to 452 – which is way too low for this gun. I increased the number of pumps to 15, knowing that each pump stroke only counted as a fractional stroke due to the hard pump cup. Velocity climbed to 514, which is still too slow for the rifle. Jumping to 18 pump strokes, velocity jumped up to 616 f.p.s. To see if I had possibly over-pumped the gun, I fired a second shot, but absolutely no air escaped. So, 18 pump strokes was not too many given the condition of the pump cup.

How do I know it’s the pump cup?
How did I know it was a hard pump cup and not a leaky valve? The test for a leaky valve in a multi-pump gun is to pump three times and store the gun overnight. If it will fire in the morning, the valve holds air. With some guns, such as the Daisy 22SG, this procedure isn’t recommended because you have to cock the gun in order to pump air into the valve, but the 2200 operates in a more conventional way.

The only other cause for low power would be a weak hammer spring. If that had been the problem, velocity would not go beyond a certain level and there would be extra air in the valve with a second shot. My problem is definitely a hard pump cup.

20 pump strokes!
I decided to go up to 20 pump strokes to see if there was anything left to gain, and, indeed, there was! At 20 pumps, a Premier went 624 f.p.s. That’s a gain of 8 f.p.s. for two additional pump strokes, which tells me that 20 is very close to the maximum number of pumps the valve can exhaust. I did not pump it more times because I’m not interested in the absolute last foot-second of speed – just what kind of performance to expect if there was a pliable pump cup in the gun.

Shooting the Meisterkugeln
This was the baseline test since this pellet is the same one Jim House used in his gun the one time he pumped it up 10 times. All the other tests he did were with a maximum of eight pumps, based on his conversation with Crosman engineers. His rifle averaged 590 with Meisters on 10 pumps. My rifle got 595 with 20 pumps and 500 with 10 pumps. That tells me there is no difference between a first variation 2200 Magnum and one made later in the run (House’s was made in the late 1980s). The urban myth of a more powerful first model is busted! Also busted is the myth of a Crosman multi-pump more powerful than Benjamin’s 392. However, the 2200 is still quite a bit ahead of the Daisy 22SG, which gets about 20-40 f.p.s. less.

Will more oiling help?
As I explained yesterday, I liberally oiled the felt wiper on the pump rod, to get the rifle working again. Was that enough? I did it again and reran the tests to see if there was any improvement. Here’s where owning a chronograph pays off! The pump stroke changed in difficulty, and I heard new noises as I pumped. I would have sworn by that evidence that oiling helped, but the chronograph disagreed. There was no significant change in any of the numbers. The numbers don’t lie, so I have to assume the extra oil just got in the way. It’s not all bad, though, because that oil gets blown into the firing valve from the air reservoir, and those seals need it, too.

I’ve established that the first variation Crosman 2200 Magnum is no more powerful than any that followed. If you see one and want to get it, go ahead. There’s nothing special about an early one except for the finish.

I’ve also verified that buying an airgun and “putting it aside” is not such a good idea. That’s where my like-new gun came from. The first owner had set it aside just because the price seemed good and he liked the look, but pneumatics need to be exercised, or they harden up like this one did. If you own a bunch of pneumatics, you need to take them out and use them from time to time, or this will happen to them.

We’ll look at accuracy next.

Crosman 2200 – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, since today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the people who make this blog possible – our hosts at Pyramyd Air. They generously give us this wonderful place to explore airguns as much as we like, and for that they deserve our thanks.

Crosman’s 2200 Magnum was a great .22-caliber multi-pump of the 1980s.

Now for something old. Jim House wrote the book American Air Rifles, and he recently told me that the .22 caliber multi-pump pneumatic Crosman 2200 Magnum was one of the best-kept secrets of recent times.The first ones, made back in 1978-1980, were supposed to be extra powerful, capable of velocities over 700 f.p.s.! Then, Crosman throttled them back in 1981, so they were no longer more powerful than the Benjamin 392.

House buys them. Why shouldn’t I?
House told me that he buys every 2200 he sees unless it is outrageous or in sad shape, and he has them all put back into working condition. If you read about it in his book, he tells you that Crosman engineers now feel the stated maximum pump limit of 10 strokes was too much and that owners should stop at 8. House used a late 1980s gun for his velocity testing in the book, so his max velocity with RWS Meisterkugeln and 10 pumps was 590 f.p.s.

This is why I go to airgun shows!
Well, I stumbled on a real prize at the recent airgun show in Roanoke, Virginia. A first-variation 2200, it has the chromeplated receiver with a dark brown plastic stock and forearm. And, yes, this is one of those rare occasions where the gun really is plated with chrome – just like the metal on a motorcycle! Usually, the plating is nickel, which looks a little golden next to chrome. There were a few 2200s that were nickelplated, but apparently they’re quite scarce.

Chrome receiver looks sharp. You can see the scope rail at the top.

The gun is in like-new condition and the price was too good to pass up. Actually, the seller was a friend who cut me a real deal because he suspected what I wanted it for…this report.

This vintage air rifle is almost 39″ long, with an adult-sized 13.75″ pull. It weighs 4.5 lbs. I must admit that I don’t like the feel of a plastic stock, but the gun is quite attractive. If Crosman still sold it, I believe it would give the Daisy 22SG a run for its money.

The tests House published show the 2200 ahead of the 22SG for power, pump for pump. The 22SG has an all-wood stock and comes with its own scope, so there are some tradeoffs to be considered. The 2200 is grooved to accept a scope, and it comes with a nice set of adjustable open sights. While the adjustments are a bit fundamental, they do work, which is all that really matters.

Rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation. Rear screw is loosened and sight pivots in the direction you want the pellet to go.

Fixing a gun the easy way
For all you readers who wonder whether I’m making all this up about how Crosman Pellgunoil saves old airguns, this gun was not accepting a charge until I oiled the pump head, as I have instructed so many of you to do. Of course, I used Pellgunoil for this. Of course, it worked. Even better, this is a “like new” airgun, it still has the sticker on it telling you to do just that! See! I wasn’t making it up! Crosman used to tell you to oil the pump head.

This is one of the places I get that advice I give.

We’ll check the speedometer tomorrow. Don’t eat too much turkey!

RWS Diana 54 – Part 2

Part 1

by B. B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I noticed that there are some pellet packages in the Pyramyd Air Gift Guide now. If you have someone who wants to give you a nice gift but doesn’t know much about airguns, these are great selections. Plus, they’re giving the 4th tin free in the promotion! Better hurry, though, because the best pellets will probably sell out as the season progresses.

We’re back on the RWS Diana 54 today, but if you are concerned that this rifle or the Whiscombe are going to hog this blog, don’t be. I will take plenty of breaks and do other airguns. I’ll need the time, because some of my future reports require trips to the range. Let’s look at several details I glossed over in the first report.

I told you this is an easy rifle to cock, but now I’ll tell you why. The sidelever is arranged to provide superior leverage, and this is true for the Diana models 48 and 52, as well. It’s true the sidelever does add some weight to an already heavy airgun, but the cocking advantage makes it worthwhile in my opinion.

The action slides forward and locks up until the gun fires. When the piston springs forward, that pushes the action to the rear. The harsh impulse of the piston coming to a halt stops the action in its tracks, which removes every sense of recoil from the shooter.

The sidelever swings far to the rear, so the mechanical advantage is great. The strange thing about this picture is the fact that the rifle was not cocked! As I tell you in this report, the ratchet was holding the sliding chamber. The lever still goes back another 20 degrees.

Sliding compression chamber
This rifle has a compression chamber that slides to the rear, pushing the piston until it is caught and held by the sear. Then, the chamber is returned to the front to serve as the compression chamber for the shot. When it is in the rear position, the back of the barrel is exposed for loading. You can also see the steel ratchet that catches the sidelever should your hand ever let go during cocking. When the chamber is fully to the rear, that ratchet doubles as the anti-beartrap. Without this mechanism, your fingers would be sheared off if the chamber were to close while your fingers are in the way.

The silver cylinder is the sliding compression chamber.

On the left side of the stock there’s a button sticking up. It’s the release button for the ratchet, so you can slide the chamber forward once the rifle is loaded. If the button is ever difficult to push, back off, because the rifle is not cocked! The ratchet is holding the chamber, instead. Keep your hands off this button while you load the rifle! That actually happened to me while shooting the pictures for this report!

Here you can see the breech, which is very accessible for loading. The steel ratchet is seen at the bottom of the cylinder and the button standing proud of the receiver is the ratchet release. This one was holding the sliding chamber at the time, though I didn’t know it when I took the picture!

Next time, I’ll mount a scope and head to the range!

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