Archive for February 2007

A new bipod

by B.B. Pelletier

Bipods are a hot item with hunters, but they aren’t always easy to mount. Today, I’ll show you the Dragon Claw that eases the situation greatly.

UTG Dragon Claw
The Dragon Claw bipod clamps directly on barrels. It adapts to a wide range of barrel diameters, from 11mm to 19mm. It will not fit the underlevers of rifles such as the TX200 or the Gamo CF-X, because there isn’t enough clearance for the clamp between the lever and the barrel. Most breakbarrel and fixed barrel guns should work, though. It’s also made for firearms, so don’t forget them!

Sturdy locking legs
I have been testing a Dragon Claw, and it seems quite rugged. The legs deploy in both directions, so you can decide which way to fold them after the bipod is mounted on the rifle. Each leg has a locking mechanism with a positive spring-loaded thumb latch. Thumb the latch down against the strong spring, and the leg unlocks for movement. Release the latch, and the leg locks solidly in position. It takes just a few seconds to set it up or fold it back.

Sledge feet
Each foot is a sledge that will dig into the earth to provide a solid platform. The feet can be swapped to reverse their direction, but since the whole unit can also be mounted backwards, I see no reason to swap the feet. The same thing can be achieved in less than a minute by turning the entire bipod around on the rifle.

Spring-loaded legs
Each leg is extendable up to 2.25 inches by rotating a knurled band that unlocks the mechanism. A very powerful spring then thrusts the leg to full extension. Because the legs are splayed on an angle, they give the bipod an adjustment range from 9 to 11 inches.

Attachment
The attaching clamp is what makes the Dragon Claw such a useful bipod. It clamps to any round barrel, then the adjustable sector moves up to clamp onto the barrel positively. The interior parts of the clamp that touch the barrel have rubber pads so they won’t scratch the metal or remove any bluing. Finger-tight is not good enough, so there are holes around the circumference of the thumbwheel. Stick something strong into them. I used an Allen wrench and tightened the wheel another half turn, which proved perfect.


Those holes in the tightening thumbwheel allow you to insert a steel bar for extra torque. About an extra half-turn is all it takes.

Once attached, the bipod still swivels around the barrel on those rubber pads to give you all the cant control you need. On a breakbarrel, the deployed legs did not get in the way of the normal cocking stroke of my R1; but if they do on your rifle, just relocate the bipod. The folded legs should never prove to be a problem.


The Dragon Claw mounted easily on this Beeman R1. Shown with the legs extended.


The bipod legs are retracted and folded. They can fold both front and back – it’s up to you.

This could be the answer!
I’ve received many inquiries about mounting bipods on this or that air rifle. The RWS Diana 48 is a common one. There have been other barrel-clamping bipods, but they were all flimsy and I never recommended them. I can recommend this one because it’s as rugged as can be! And check the price! At just $17.99, it’s as inexpensive as many of the really cheap Chinese copies that you wouldn’t want to use. I haven’t seen a bipod bargain like this one in a long time.

Parents: Do you know where your children are?And what they’re doing?Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today, I’ll finish the discussion of children and airguns.

Children often have poor judgement. In fact, one of the principal duties of raising a child is to protect them while their judgement matures. If a child shows curiosity about guns, the safest solution is to educate them in gun safety. Obviously, the education must change as the child matures. Very young children should not be allowed to hold guns of any kind without 100 percent continuous adult supervision. The NRA Eddie Eagle program teaches all young children to simply walk out of any room if they see a gun in it. As the child matures, they are given more responsibility after they demonstrate they can handle it. But not all children mature! In fact, this is the crux of the problem.

Age doesn’t guaranty maturity
There are parents and grandparents with poor judgement, too. Being lax about their own responsibilities, they feel strongly that their children should be left to their own devices, as well. However, when something bad comes their way they are the ones who scream loudest, “No fair!” These people are a major cause for the type of society we live in. They don’t want to be responsible, so laws are made to protect everyone from their actions, and they are the first to cry whenever they get bit by the consequences.

No room for a mistake!
There are no second chances anymore. If someone violates school policy by taking a non-firearm gun on school property, the school will prevail. If someone brandishes an airgun in a public place, the police have the right to respond – often with deadly force. Yes, there will be an inquest into the officer’s actions, but the child who was shot will still be dead regardless of the outcome.

I live in a state where concealed carry is widespread. When I go to a gun show, the police have a booth outside the show where all the carry guns are unloaded, inspected and disabled with a cable tie while the owner is in the show. But, they still permit the guns to be carried into the show! The same station serves those who want to take in guns that aren’t concealed – the guys who walk around with signs they have guns for sale. That is the responsible side of law enforcement. And, we haven’t had any shooting incidents at gun shows in recent memory. In sharp contrast, there have been “accidents” at gun shows in states that have very restrictive gun laws.

However, when I go to the courthouse in my town, a sign on the front door tells everyone who is not law enforcement to disarm before entering the building. Some commercial businesses like banks have the same sign. And, our schools have the same zero-tolerance policy about guns that you’ll find almost everywhere in the U.S.

But children don’t have good judgement, yet. They may not obey their school’s policy, even though they know it well. So, parents must protect their children from indiscretions by controlling the BB guns, airsoft guns, knives, bows, etc., they let their kids have. It’s the parent who must exercise good judgement, and they must educate their kids to understand the consequences of bad judgement. That’s the really hard part, but also the most necessary, because sooner or later kids will begin trying things on their own. If they’re educated in gun safety, they’ll know instinctively that they shouldn’t brandish an airsoft gun in public.

The end
Bottom line? No one can show a gun in public without risking dire consequences. Children have no experience to gauge how bad things can get – nor do they appreciate finality. When the game is really over, there’s no coming back. Friends who died in car accidents in high school are still dead fifty years later. So we don’t “teach” children by letting them figure things out on their own if there are severe risks involved. Putting it bluntly, parents need to keep the gun secured – whatever it takes. No excuses!

Parents: Do you know where your children are?And what they’re doing?Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I frequently get calls from lawyers wanting expert advice on the lethality of airguns. Sometimes, these questions are even about airsoft guns. As difficult as it is to imagine in this paranoid age of zero tolerance, there are still children who take airsoft guns and low-powered BB or pellet guns to school or brandish them in public. When they are caught, the consequences are dire.

The latest call came from an incident that happened last year. A teenaged boy was caught on a school bus in possession of a PPK/S. The lawyer is very tight-lipped about whether it was a BB gun or an airsoft gun, but he wants an opinion on the lethality of the “weapon.”

There ARE dumb questions after all!
I was wrong to say there are no dumb questions. Because whenever a DEFENSE lawyer uses the emotionally loaded term “weapon” when referring to his client, he is setting up the case to lose (e.g., When did you stop beating your wife?).

AN AIRGUN IS NOT A WEAPON! Airguns are not recognized as self-defense weapons, except for a very limited range of less-lethal weapons. Law enforcement does not include airguns in their list of offensive weapons. Yes, there are specific uses for airguns in both law enforcement and the military (rubber bullet launchers, tasers and pepper ball launchers, for example), but they do not include using the airgun as an offensive WEAPON. Calling an airgun a weapon is as dumb as calling a firearm a “real gun.” Especially when your defense attorney does it!

Lethality is not the issue!
I don’t know where the term “lethal” entered into the conversation, either, but it has nothing to do with the case, unless the shool makes a distinction between lethal and non-lethal guns. That’s hard to believe. The real problem is the school’s policy. If their policy prohibits bringing guns of any kind onto school property (the school bus is school property), then that is the only issue on which to focus.

Time for REAL parenting!
Enough of this incident. The core issue lies with families and how society relates to them today. Fifty years ago, all adults looked after all children, more or less. Any adult could scold any child doing something wrong in public and, unless the situation was very bizarre, the parents of the child would accept the correction. Children had no “rights,” because they were dependent minors.

That situation has changed dramatically. Today, an adult who corrects a child other than his own risks a lawsuit. And, in some circumstances, they also risk legal action even when correcting their own children. I am not judging whether this is bad or good; it’s just the way things are. So, parents have to educate their children more than ever before on the pitfalls of society, because they are now treated as almost fully franchised citizens. Even with that, there isn’t complete protection.

I will finish this discussion tomorrow.

What’s going on with Gamo?Is the 1600 f.p.s. air rifle real?

by B.B. Pelletier

Need for speed
Speed sells – no doubt about it. Beeman was first to recognize it, then RWS Diana and finally Gamo learned that lesson a few years back. Which is why they built their Hunter 1250, a breakbarrel air rifle that really does shoot lightweight pellets to 1250 f.p.s. It was big news for a few years, but was eclipsed by the AirForce Condor, which does 1250 f.p.s. with 14.3-grain .22-caliber Crosman Premier pellets. So what would come next?

Raptor fell short
Well, Gamo’s Performance Ballistic Alloy pellet, the Raptor, came next, of course. They were supposed to increase the velocity of any spring airgun, and my testing with the Gamo CF-X proved that they did. However, they did not live up to the other claims for penetration or power. They had reduced penetration, the same as any lightweight pellet would, and the power was lower, too.

Trickery?
But, the one thing I took for granted during all of this was that the Hunter 1250, now renamed the Hunter Extreme, was a real 1600 f.p.s. air rifle. Why did I believe it? Because Jim Scoutten shot one through a chronograph on his television show, Shooting USA, and got a little more than 1600 f.p.s. on an Oehler 35P chronograph on camera! However, now I’m not so sure.

If a Gamo Hunter Extreme will shoot a Raptor pellet to 1600 f.p.s., I reasoned that an AirForce Condor would go even faster, since I’ve already tested them with synthetic pellets up to 1450 f.p.s. in .177 caliber. But when I recently tested a .177 Condor with a Raptor, it topped out at 1486 f.p.s., well below the magic 1600 f.p.s. Gamo advertises. I know the Condor is far more powerful than the Hunter Extreme, so these results didn’t seem right.

Call in the vigilantes!
An airgunner friend of mine was also surprised to hear that the Condor was testing slower than the Gamo, so he did some testing of his own. With a new .177 Gamo Hunter Extreme, the maximum velocity he could get with Raptors was 1420 f.p.s., well off the 1600 f.p.s. pace it’s supposed to give and also behind the Condor. What gives?

Gamo deserves the benefit of the doubt
Now, I know ways of boosting velocity in almost any spring air rifle, but was that what had happened, or was my friend’s Hunter Extreme just slow? I would like to believe that Gamo would not advertise their rifle at one velocity but actually ship it knowing that it develops 180 f.p.s. LESS! So I need some help from you readers to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Let’s find out
I am asking any Gamo Hunter Extreme owners who own chronographs to report their velocities with Raptor pellets. The one rifle that has been tested thus far may have had something wrong with it, so let’s see what a larger sample of guns can do. Is the Hunter Extreme a real 1600 f.p.s. air rifle?

I don’t care whether the rifle gets 1600 f.p.s. or not, because no airgunner would ever shoot one that fast and expect any sort of accuracy. They would use heavier pellets to slow down the speed below 1,000 f.p.s. and even below 900 f.p.s., if possible, because that’s where the accuracy is. But, if a company advertises 1600 f.p.s., then their rifles ought to be able to deliver! On the eve of the RWS Diana 460 launch, I want to be sure the playing field is level for all competitors.

Investing in airguns – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today, we’ll look at the modern guns that can be owned for very little money. You do this by selling one before buying the next. If you pick the right gun, you’ll end up spending just $30-50 to own the gun for as long as it’s yours. This only works with certain select models, so I will also discuss what happens with the others.

First, the sound buys
Yesterday, we looked at airguns that appreciate in value. Today, we’re looking at airguns that don’t lose much of their value, but may only appreciate as the cost of a similar new airgun increases. Let’s start with the TX200 Mk III. I paid $440 for mine several years ago, and the new price today is $548. That makes mine worth about $475 if I were to sell it. I won’t, though, so in another 10 years my $440 investment might grow to $600. That’s not really growth when you consider inflation, but at least I’m not losing too much money over the time I owned the gun. Just about any spring rifle from Air Arms will do well, though the TX200 will always lead the pack.

Another sound buy would be a quality PCP model positioned at the lowest rung of pricing for that particular brand. For Logun, that would be a Solo, but not an S-16s. For Daystate, it would be a Harrier X but not a Mk3. For Falcon, the FN-19 would be a good bet, while the Prairie Falcon would not. Don’t get me wrong – all these high-end guns are fine airguns, but what I am talking about is the ability to hold their prices. The costly guns have a poor history of doing it, while the inexpensive models seem to do much better.

Another sound buy is any 10-meter airgun that has lost all of it’s initial attractivness to the shooting crowd. The FWB 300 is a classic example. Once they retailed for $1,200. After many years off the new gun market, used guns could barely top $450. That was the right time to buy. Today, a good used 300 brings $550-600, and they’re now on the increase. The Anschutz 250 is in the same boat, along with the Diana 75 and the Diana 100. The El Gamo 126, however, is more suspect and less likely to command a good price.

Another sound investment, as long as the price is right, is any vintage air rifle that is perceived as a classic. A Blue Streak or Silver Streak with the rocker or thumb safety will hold a price of $100, while a new gun will drop below $100 after purchase. An FWB 124 will continue to be worth at least $350 for the deluxe and $300 for the Sport model in excellent condition.

Riskier investments
Any gun that is in good supply will not hold its value like a similar gun in short supply. Hence, the HW77 doesn’t hold up like the TX200. The Beeman R1 doesn’t hold up like the Air Arms Pro Sport.

Older airguns that have had their technology seriously upgraded are likely to not hold much value. The AirForce Talon A-series guns made before the power adjustment wheels are an example. In fact, you can often get these for a real deal because their owners don’t like them anymore. Then, send the gun to AirForce, and they’ll upgrade it to a B model for $100. Sometimes that’s a very good investment, depending on what you have to pay for the original gun.

Condition is important
Location is key to real estate value; condition is key with used airguns. These are not collectible airguns, but any used gun in the best condition will sell first. Refinishing usually destroys any hope of maintaining close to original value. So do extensive modifications. Unless the person who did the modifications was Ivan Hancock, leave the mods off. The exception is when mods add actual value, such as upgrading a 12-gram CO2 rifle to bulk-fill.

There are some quick looks at airgun values and how you can use them. By buying the right guns, one at a time, you can keep your money rolling along. It’s almost like renting the guns.

Investing in airguns – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This idea comes from Dennis Quackenbush. There are two parts to it: (1) Some airguns are good investments and (2) You can own a lot of great guns for very little money by buying and selling them one at a time.

Investments

There are airgun investments that seem to be as sound as blue chip stocks. This blog doesn’t have the room to cover all of them, so I’ll give just a thumbnail view of a few notables.

Whiscombe
John Whiscombe either has stopped making guns or will soon stop, depending on which website you read. A JW75 with 4 barrels and the HOTS on all of them plus a grade 3 walnut thumbhole stock sold for $2,300 in 1998. Today, the same rifle in excellent condition is worth $2,800-$3,000. That’s a growth of $500-$700 over nine years. Not earth-shattering, but sound, if the gun’s condition is preserved. Over the next 10 years, I expect the value to pass $4,000, because no more Whiscombes are being made.


Whiscombe JW75 with all 4 barrels and a thumbhole stock of grade 3 walnut will always increase in value.

Christmas Story Red Ryder
This BB gun sold for about $80 in 1984 and today brings over $400. Because of counterfeiting, no Christmas Story Red Ryder is considered legit unless accompanied by the box, and even the boxes are suspect. I imagine the gun will level off around $800-$1,000 in 10 more years.

Daisy No. 25 pump
The earlier versions of this BB gun are good investments, as long as they have not been fooled with. Guns made before 1952 (wood stock and blued steel or nickelplated steel) in near-excellent condition bring $175-$400 today, depending on the variation. They are increasing by 5-10 percent a year as boomers try to recapture their past. Any rust, incorrect screws or refinished wood drops the value to $75 for a nice shooter. The Daisy No. 25 Centennial Model made in 1986 is worth $150-$200, but the market is about to take off. It must be in the box with no handling marks and all original ephemera.


Daisy 25 Centennial model came in a box with a color slipcover. Inside was a brown cardboard box with the schematic on the lid. Daisy hit one out of the park with this gun. It’s a solid investment, though not for rapid growth.


The 25 Centennial is a close approximation of the pre-1925 version of the BB gun. All paperwork must accompany the gun, including the hang tag.

Benjamin 392LE
This one is still available today, but I think it’s a great investment. The 392 Limited Edition is sold only by Crosman’s Custom Shop. It uses the AS392T receiver for better scope mounting and comes with a scope for just $215 with internet discount. Crosman is building only 500, so this is a rare variation of the Benjamin 392. In 20 years, I look for it to command some real money, when collectors will have to have one to complete their collections.

Turkeys

Some airguns being sold as investments are to be avoided, such as most Daisy guns made today. Daisy has ceased making new airgun models and for several years has been putting different finishes on the same tired models. These are sold to commemorate this and that, but they are as unlikely to increase in value as the Winchester commemorative rifles based on the model 94 action. One exception was the 700 model 179 pistols Daisy assembled from parts found in a warehouse. That special release in 2006 is now the most valuable 179 of all, except for the 25 handmade brass salesman’s samples. It doubled in value after the last one was sold. To be genuine it must have the box and certificate signed by Daisy museum curator Orin Ribar.


Daisy 179 is a 12-shot catapult BB pistol. However, 700 of them were assembled from returned parts in 2006. Those came in this box and are the most valuable 179s of all.

Another turkey is any regular spring gun that’s been dolled up with a special finish, stock plaque or engraving commemorating this or that. RWS Diana did a number of them and they are seen as just pretty shooters on the American market. Beeman did several, as well, and I’ve never seen one sell for an actual premium. One notable exception might be the Beeman FWB 125, a .20 caliber variation of the 124. There were only five prototypes produced, and they bring whatever a serious collector is willing to pay today. Another exception is the BSA Centenary that now commands $1,000…when you can find one.

A final type of gun to avoid as an investment is any new 10-meter target gun. Like cars, they lose their value with the first sale. However, the SECOND owner can wind up with a gun that will never depreciate! An FWB P700 may sell for $3,000 new, but don’t expect to ever recoup that money. You lose $400 when you drive it off the lot. However, a current model will hold its value until the next model replaces it. Then it drops in value once more. So a nice FWB 601 is worth about $900-1,100, while a new 603 goes for $2,400.

Good stuff? Stick around, because there’s more to come!

Haenel 311 target rifle

by B.B. Pelletier


This strange-looking contraption is a bolt-action single-shot pellet rifle called the Haenel 311. They were sold as surplus when East Germany fell.

After doing the report on the Haenel 310 rifle last week, I decided to dust off my 311 and shoot it to you, as well. You may recall that I told you about the yard sale going on in the former East Germany after the wall fell. Well, besides the 310s, there were a number of 311s and 312s – both pellet rifles – that were sold, as well. I happened to snag a 311, which is a very curious air rifle, plus I have what I believe to be a very rare sporter sight for it. At any rate, I’d like to tell you about this rifle today.

What is a 311?
While the model 310 is a short-range target rifle, the fact that it shoots round 4.4mm lead balls takes it out of serious competition. There are no world-class events for ball shooters, other than Daisy’s International BB Gun Championship, and that’s for children, only. The model 311 is an actual pellet rifle, though unlike one that most shooters have ever seen. It was built for 10-meter competition, but I doubt very much if it ever did well at the national level. In its day, it would have gone head-to-head with Walther 53 breakbarrels and Weihrauch model 55s. The Haenel is in the Daisy 853 class when it comes to accuracy, while the HW55 actually won gold at the world level.


Looking down from the top, you can see the similarity between the bolt on the 311 and 310. The 311 bolt also rocks back to cock the mainspring and is too hard for most younger shooters to operate.

The rifle is a bolt-action single shot that loads through a tap. Since the shooter cannot place the pellet into the rifling, that spoils one of the competitive advantages of the other rifles. No taploader has ever been as accurate as a direct-loading single-shot.


The loading tap is closed, and the hole through it lines up with the air transfer port and the breech.


The loading tap is open. A pellet is dropped nose-first into this hole. When the tap closes, the pellet is in perfect alignment with the breech.

The tap is entirely manual in this rifle. Many taploaders have taps that open automatically when the gun is cocked, but this one doesn’t. It’s simpler because there is no additional mechanism required to open the tap, but the complexity of the trigger totally destroys any bid for simplicity.

Trigger
The trigger is a two-stage adjustable (first stage travel) that lets off at less than one pound. It’s definitely a target trigger, though not in the same class as the IZH 46M pistol trigger. I do feel travel through stage two, but no creep to speak of.

When the rifle is cocked, the safety goes on automatically. Before shooting, you have to press in the safety at the rear of the receiver. I once had the gun apart to look at the trigger and it took me many hours to get it back together. This is easily the most complex trigger mechanism I’ve ever encountered on an airgun.

Sights
The front sight is a raised globe with replaceable inserts and the rear diopter is a fully adjustable match sight with rubber eyecup. I believe the front accepts inserts from a Lyman 12, so they are easy to get. The rear sight adjusts in both directions, but there is no reference scale, so it takes some time to understand what the adjustments do. Very 1950s! However, it also has selectable, graduated apertures to adapt to any range lighting conditions – a feature that even the big boys don’t have today. You have to buy an add-on accessory for that, but this little East German vintage target rifle came standard with it.

I mentioned that I also have a sporter sight for mine. I don’t mount it because it gets in the way of the aperture sight, but I bought it for the rarity. The better zimmerst├╝tzens also came with sporting sights that mount midway up the receiver, the same as this one, and I have never discovered what shooters did with those sights, either. This one clamps on to a block behind the loading tap.

Power
All oiled-up, the 311 might hit 500 f.p.s. with a 7.6-grain wadcutter. It’s certainly not a magnum air rifle by any stretch.

When they come up for sale, 311s usually list for $200 these days. If you like quirky airguns, this one is definitely for you!

Top-notch springer
Air Arms TX200 air rifle

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

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

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

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