Archive for May 2008
by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s resume our evaluation of the Smith & Wesson M&P BB pistol today. First, this update on the magazine.
The follower hook
As I started my shooting session, the M&P failed to shoot. I removed the magazine twice with the same result – one BB fell out of the mag well and nothing changed. On the third try, I discovered that the follower wasn’t releasing to push the BBs into firing position. It was staying back in the loading position, leaving the BB stack under no tension. A hook on the bottom of the follower is a bit too aggressive and hangs onto the bottom of the magazine until I manually push it off. Then it releases and the follower works as intended. If you don’t know this, the pistol can be frustrating at first, so watch for this on your M&P.
Shooting the pistol
With that solved, the pistol functioned flawlessly. This time, I decided that I wouldn’t shoot at paper targets, because this kind of BB pistol isn’t intended for them. I simply threw three pop cans on the back lawn and proceeded to bounce them around. Today’s pop cans are made from such thin aluminum that the BBs easily pass through both sides unless they impact in a reinforced spot.
It’s been decades since I simply bounced a can around with a handgun, and I forgot how much fun it can be. I limited the distance to about 20 feet, which is appropriate for the type of gun I’m testing, and about 90 percent of my shots found their target. Those lightweight aluminum cans really do move when hit by a BB. I wore safety glasses while shooting, and you should, as well, in case a steel BB impacts anything hard in your yard. One of mine hit a rock or something, and I got it back in the face to remind me of the ever-present danger.
The tactical sights worked well for this kind of shooting. I held the front sight just under where I wanted the BB to go, and it went there nearly every time – including several shots on the end of the can, where there wasn’t as much to aim at. The trigger-pull on this double-action-only pistol is smooth and light enough, at 5.5 lbs., to not destroy your aim.
With a fresh CO2 cartridge, I got velocities in the 410-429 f.p.s. range, shooting Daisy premium-grade zinc-plated BBs. But, if I fired several shots in quick succession, the velocities dipped to the 380s. That’s due to the cooling effect of expanding CO2, and it holds true for all CO2 guns regardless of who makes them. I see that the max velocity is rated at 480 f.p.s., so the pistol I’m testing is from the slower end of the scale.
What do I think?
Several things recommend the S&W M&P BB pistol. First, it has a delightfully light trigger that’s so appreciated in a DAO gun. Second, it’s accurate enough for its primary can-popping mission. The sights are bold and easy to acquire, not to mention being right on the money. And, let’s not forget - the price is great. I can’t fault this one.
by B.B. Pelletier
Now, let’s shoot!
The 499 is very light for adults and even for some kids. In the International BB Gun Championships, the coaches add weight to their kids’ guns based on how big the shooter is. I think the limit is 6.5 lbs. Someone asked about the weight earlier and I thought I’d already given it, but I guess not. At any rate, I shoot the gun at the stock factory weight and I do okay.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE
The 499 manual has you cock the gun first, then load it. If you do it that way, the shooter’s hand and possibly their face will be in front of the muzzle of a loaded and cocked gun. I prefer to load first and then cock. My way means a shooter’s hand and possibly their face will not be in front of the muzzle of a cocked and loaded gun. I have been doing it this way for over 10 years, and it works perfectly, so my advice is to ignore what the manual says and do it my way.
Use only the best ammo
I know you aren’t going to cheap out and try to use regular BBs in this gun, are you? Of course not! That would be like buying a new Corvette and trying to run it on regular gas. The best accuracy is only possible with Daisy’s Avanti Precision Ground Shot.
Load the gun
You load the gun by dropping a single BB into the large funnel-shaped muzzle. You’ll hear it roll down the bore to the magnetic seat, where it stops with a click. Once you hear the BB contact the magnetic seat, you may cock the gun. On some rare occasions I have not heard the tiny click that announces the BB is in position. In those cases, I wait about five seconds and assume the gun is loaded. Then I cock the gun without the audible confirmation.
The trigger is single-stage and non-adjustable. Mine lets off at 2 lbs., 14 ozs. Coaches are known to work on the pull, but I don’t think they can do that much with it. It’s still going to be single-stage, which isn’t as precise as a conventional two-stage target trigger. But, it does work well with practice.
Shooting the 499 produces a buzz that may sound cheap to most shooters, but hold your opinions until you see the results downrange. In a good shooter’s hands, this BB gun will keep all its shots on Roosevelt’s head on an American dime. A BB gun champion can keep them all inside this letter – O.
The one bad thing about this gun is the pistol grip. It’s nearly horizontal and it forces you to either put your fingers through the cocking lever, where there isn’t enough room, or to grab around the lever, which feels awkward. I would hope for a more vertical target grip with a cocking lever that didn’t get in the way.
Range and target
BB gun competition today is shot at 5 meters, which is 16.4 feet. That’s a change made to acknowledge a metric distance, rather than one measured in feet. Since it’s slightly longer than the 15 feet that used to be, the target was changed. The target is made especially for this kind of shooting, and it’s available from Pyramyd Air. The target works specifically with the gun, so this is another thing you need if you buy the 499. You’ll also need a good BB backstop, and the best one is Crosman’s model 850 Pellet and BB Trap.
The Daisy Avanti 499 Champion is so much more accurate than any other BB gun on the market that there isn’t any comparison. It’s a gun made for a single purpose – to put its BBs inside the 10-ring of a 5-meter target. You don’t have to use it for that, of course, but buy the gun knowing that it was made to do just one thing. For training youngsters to shoot straight, develop personal discipline and perhaps grow up loving the shooting sports the way we all do, you can’t get a better start than with a Daisy 499.
Introduction by B.B. Pelletier
Vince Brandolini stirred up some interest in a previous blog when he talked about the energy he derived from certain spring guns. Many of us wondered how he calculated spring energy. Today, he shows us how!
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Springtime! – Part 1
by Vince Brandolini
When I mentioned a little while ago that I’d been calculating the potential energy stored in the powerplant of a cocked spring gun, there seemed to be some interest in how this information is derived. While there are plenty of shooters who don’t want to concern themselves with the mechanical nitty-gritty of their guns, others might be interested to know a little more about the heart of their weapon’s powerplant.
The function of an airgun spring is simple enough: it stores human-provided energy that is slowly put into it. At the shooter’s command, it releases it quickly. This is something a spring gun shares with the a slingshot or bow. The power that the gun imparts to the pellet is largely (although not completely) dependent on the capacity of the spring to hold energy.
Energy is another word for work, and we commonly express it in simple terms of force x distance. If you lift a 3-lb. weight two feet off the floor, you’ve just done 6 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) of work. When you cock a spring-piston gun, you’re putting a very fixed amount of work (or energy) into the rifle’s powerplant.
If the powerplant were perfect (a physical impossibility), that same amount of energy would be transmitted to the pellet. Unfortunately, most of the energy you put into the rifle ends up going to waste. How much is wasted depends on the gun’s efficiency. The higher the efficiency the more powerful a gun will be for a given cocking effort, or it will need less cocking effort for a given amount of power. Either way, high efficiency is obviously better. Knowing the efficiency of a given springer can be very useful information. In a way, it’s just like checking the gas mileage of your car. On one hand, it gives you an idea of how well the gun is designed; yet, on the other hand, it could alert you that the gun needs some sort of mechanical repair.
First, you have to calculate the energy stored in the powerplant. You’ll need to know four things about the gun and its spring:
- The amount of preload when the spring is installed in the rifle
- The stroke of the piston
- The free (uncompressed) length of the spring
- The spring rate
The spring rate is usually expressed (in the US) in pounds per inch, and describes the amount of additional force required for every additional inch that a spring is compressed. For example, a spring that’s 30 lbs./in. (which, incidentally, is a ballpark figure for many guns) is normally 10″ long and requires 30 lbs. of force to compress it to a length of 9″. Compressing it further to 8″ requires 60 lbs., 7″ requires 90 lbs. and so on. The best way to determine spring rate is with a spring tester, which is a calibrated scale combined with a mechanism for holding the spring while it’s compressed to a certain length. A spring tester is a specialized (and expensive) piece of equipment. We can get around that by making some careful measurements.
To calculate spring rate, we need to know the following:
- Number of coils
- Outside (or inside) diameter
- The actual spring wire diameter
- The modulus of elasticity for the material in question
The modulus of elasticity doesn’t really vary that much from one spring steel alloy to another, so we can use a good compromise figure. It’s very important to measure the spring AFTER it’s been fired several times. New springs almost always take a set after they’re used a few times; that is, they shorten up. Measure a new spring for an RWS 48 and you’ll find something around 11.5″. Install it, shoot it for a while, yank it out and measure it again. You’ll find that the length is now closer to 11″. Shoot it for 1000 more rounds, and you should find that it doesn’t get much (if any) shorter than that. The vast majority of spring set happens within the first few shots
For the other measurements, a dial caliper is required. Thanks to the Chinese, they can be had for very reasonable prices. The electronic one has become very common over the last few years, thanks in no small part to Harbor Freight, where they’re frequently put on sale for about $16. At that, they’re a terrific bargain. It’s not unusual to see other outfits selling the same caliper in the $30-40 range. However, and I learned this the hard way, they’re not perfect! They can drift. I had one that inexplicably lost about .005″ on the low end of the scale. That’s why I almost have a preference for the old-fashioned version, which, oddly enough, actually costs a bit more.
The OD of the spring has to be measured, and since the springs are usually not perfectly round, it’s a good idea to measure in several places to get an average. The wire diameter is measured with the dial caliper
When you measure the wire, MAKE SURE the caliper is NOT held parallel to the spring. It MUST be perpendicular to the wire itself! If it isn’t, your wire diameter measurement will be too great. Since wire diameter is extremely critical to calculating an accurate spring rate, this would throw everything off. When measuring, it’s best to slowly wiggle the caliper back and forth while maintaining pressure on the caliper jaw. Watch the readout while you do this and record the lowest reading. That’s your wire diameter.
The spring rate is calculated as follows:
- OD=outside diameter
- WD=wire diameter
- NC=number of coils
All things being equal, a fatter spring is actually softer than a thin one, and one with many coils is softer than one with fewer coils. Notice how the spring rate goes up proportional to the wire diameter to the fourth power! As I said, this measurement is critical! A 10% error here will result in the calculated spring rate being off by 35% to 45%.
Once the spring rate has been calculated, the gun has to be partially disassembled. The rear spring retainer or anchor has to be removed, and two measurements have to be taken. The first is the free length of the spring. This is simply the length of the spring when it is out of the gun and with no pressure on it. A tape measure is adequate. Get it to the nearest 1/16″.
Next, measure the preload (in inches). This is the amount that a spring is compressed when installed in an uncocked rifle. The easiest way is to start reinstalling the spring. Put the rear spring retainer in place, and measure the distance that the spring has to be compressed in order to reassemble the gun. Once the preload is known, the gun can be reassembled.
There’s one last step, and you’ll read about that next Monday!
by B.B. Pelletier
Diana’s model 35 was one of the most powerful spring guns in the 1950s. It was made until 1987.
Manish from Mumbai, India, requested this report, but Graham also wonders about his Winchester 435, which is another variation of the classic Diana 35. I did the first post on the Diana 35 back on December 8, 2005. In that post, I showed you the inside of the pre-unitized Diana trigger group with the ball-bearing sear, and I cautioned you not to take one of these rifles apart unless you’re sure you can get it back together again.
Lots of parts for a simple job. Diana’s ball bearing trigger was a real sales point when the gun was new. It releases about the same as a standard lever-type trigger.
Since that post, I’ve done more research on the Diana 35, along with four other powerful spring guns of the time, and I’ve discovered an interesting bit of information. The other four are the HW 35, Diana 45, BSF 55 and the FWB 124. I wrote a large article about them titled The Four Horsemen for the September 20 Shotgun News. The Diana 35 figured in the research because it was positioned against them as a powerful air rifle of the Diana line, but somehow it never quite measured up.
Back in the 1970s, velocity ruled the day. That’s no surprise, is it? The magic number was 800 f.p.s., and for a while, only the FWB 124 was capable of shooting that fast, in .177 caliber of course. The other powerful rifles all reported velocities in the 700 f.p.s. range, with as little as 10 f.p.s. making a huge difference in sales. If left to their own devices, the manufacturers would have soon blasted past 800, but they were held in check, first by Air Rifle Headquarters and then by Beeman Precision Airguns. Both dealers did their own testing and reported the true numbers, regardless of the outcome.
The outcome was a disaster for Diana. The 35, which was their magnum hope, was rated at 725 f.p.s. in .177 with light pellets. ARH testing revealed only 685 f.p.s. The cheaper, lighter Diana model 27 shot 650 f.p.s., so sales of the Diana 35 languished because it wasn’t that much faster.
Enter The Airgun Revue
Like many airgunners who had lived through the 1970s, I knew what the hot guns had been and had already owned many of them. For some reason, the Diana 35 had eluded me. Then at a Roanoke airgun show in the late 1990s I happened to score a 35 for myself, and resolved to set the record straight in the fifth edition of Airgun Revue. After all, I was tuning spring guns for a living (through my newsletter, that is). Certainly, I could employ “space-age” lubricants (to use Robert Law’s term) to improve on what had been possible 20 years earlier. My .22-caliber rifle was made in November 1977 and was marked as a Hy Score model 809, one of many names by which the Diana 35 went.
To see how far I could take a 35 I tested mine as it was, which was factory-original. Then, I stripped the action and cleaned it. The inside of the gun was dry and caked with hard lubricant, plus the piston was somewhat rusty. Never a good thing. The cocking effort had been 24 lbs. before the tune. By cleaning and lubricating all the moving parts, that dropped down to 19 lbs. afterward. The gun also buzzed pretty bad before the tune. I used a thin coating of black tar on the mainspring, and I burnished moly grease into the compression chamber and the leather piston seal.
High hopes – dashed
After the tune, my rifle had almost exactly the same power as before (a couple f.p.s. less, to be honest). The cocking effort had dropped and the spring twang was reduced, but the power remained around 11 foot-pounds with RWS Meisterkugeln pellets. In .22 caliber, that works out to about 590 f.p.s. With Crosman Premiers, the gun averaged 542 f.p.s., which produces only 9.33 foot-pounds. At the time, I remember being disappointed that no more power had been found, but my recent research reveals why.
Hamstrung from the start
The Diana 35 had a short-stroke piston that limited the available power. When the design was new in 1953, the 11 foot-pounds it generated in .22 caliber was considered stupendous, but by 1977 it had become mediocre. Rifles like the BSF 55 and the Diana 45 had longer-stroke pistons that were capable of much higher velocities, and the long-stroke FWB 124 that started it all, of course, was one of the most potentially powerful spring guns of the era. Unfortunately for Diana, nothing could be done to remedy the situation, so in the late 1980s, it faded away – replaced by the models 34, 36 and 38 that came out in 1984. These long-stroke spring guns represented modern technology at its best, taking velocity in .177 caliber up to 1,000 f.p.s., where guns like the 35 could no longer compete.
Twenty years have passed since the Diana 35 left the world stage, and the airgun world is now in a renaissance period. Lower-powered spring guns are once again embraced. The Diana 35 is a larger, more adult version of the extremely popular Diana model 27, and many now find it to be an appealing spring rifle to add to their collections. If the spring twang is eliminated and the trigger is tuned to break crisply, the 35 becomes a classic airgun – the kind everyone wishes they still made. If you can ignore the chronograph, the Diana 35 can be a wonderful companion. Viewed that way, instead of as the powerful spring gun it tried to be, you can be very content with this fine old classic.
by B.B. Pelletier
A question from a father last Thursday caused me to write this report. He was looking for an airgun to train his 11-year-old daughter who is slightly built. They had tried both a Daisy Red Ryder and a Crosman 760. The Red Ryder wasn’t accurate enough and the 760 was too hard for her to pump. And, when you need just the right airgun, who ya gonna call?
The ONLY solution
There are many wonderful airguns in this world, but when it comes to the lightest/most accurate kids’ target gun – BAR NONE – we have to look at the WORLD’S MOST ACCURATE BB GUN. I didn’t make that title up. That’s the slogan Daisy used when they brought out the 499 in 1976 (Note: the 499 was modified to the 499B in 1980 and to the Avanti 499 Champion in 2003). The gun came about through pressure from shooting coaches around the country who were unsatisfied with Daisy’s model 99 Target Special. Made since 1959, the model 99 was supposed to be a target gun kids could use in the International BB gun Championships that Daisy and the Jaycees started in 1966. The problem was that the guns just weren’t accurate enough.
Coaches around the country started buying model 99 shot tubes, then sending them back to Daisy and asking for different tubes. When Daisy inquired about this practice, they were informed that SOME of the shot tubes had slightly smaller bores and were more accurate than the rest. These, the coaches were putting on their club guns. They were cherry-picking the shot tubes to get more accurate guns – imagine that!
To their credit, Daisy met the challenge head-on and built a new BB gun from the ground up. They made the new gun a single-shot, which is perfect for a target shooter. They gave it a precision barrel (a tube held to close internal tolerances – BB guns are smoothbore, after all), a magnetic BB seat at the breech, a de-tuned mainspring and the same target sights the model 99 had enjoyed. This new model they called the 499, and for many years, Daisy would sell it only to clubs. In fact, I think that I had something to do with its release to the general public. When I published The Airgun Letter, I tested one, bought it, and immediately began telling everyone who would listen how to get through Daisy’s red tape to buy the gun.
Daisy’s Marketing VP told me the 499 was virtually handmade and they weren’t making any money on it selling it to clubs, so they couldn’t possibly make enough to sell to the public. I suggested raising the price! You’d think they would have thought of that. They didn’t think people would pay for a target BB gun like the 499 when the Red Ryder sold for less than half the price. I made it my mission to spread the word. When the distraught dad asked about a lightweight accurate airgun for his daughter, I knew the time had come to preach again. I last reported on the 499 back in June of 2005, and I suppose many people have not seen that report, so here it is.
This is a GUN, not a rifle, because it has a smooth bore. It’s also a muzzleloader! The shooter drops a BB into the funnel-shaped muzzle and listens for it to roll down to the magnetic shot seat. If you use Avanti Precision Ground Shot, that takes 2-5 seconds. If you use regular over-the-counter BBs, the time is less, because they are more irregular and somewhat undersized.
The current model has a wooden stock and a plastic cocking lever and trigger. The cocking effort is extremely light and should be easy even for small children. The gun comes with a peep sight at the rear and a globe front sight with interchangeable inserts. A small package of inserts comes with the gun.
The gun weighs just a hair over 3 lbs. and has a pull length of 13-1/4″. Of course, the length can be shortened with a saw. The gun has a manual safety on the right side of the receiver. It also has an anti-beartrap mechanism so the trigger does not work when the cocking lever is open. That keeps youngsters from rapping their fingers, because the cocking lever cannot suddenly close on them.
For another $25, you can buy the 5899 upgraded peep sight. It isn’t a precision sight but I would buy it, because it adjusts with knobs. The sight that comes standard on the gun uses a friction fit to hold the aperture but adjusting the sight picture is an iffy thing. Remember that most of the parts on the upgraded sight are plastic, and there’s some slop in the mechanism. You may need to turn the knobs more than you think to get the results you want. One of the customer reviews says a 5899 receiver sight was included with his gun, so check with Pyramyd Air before you purchase something unnecessary.
I’m going to break this report here, but the second half will come this week.
Now, for a special treat! While I was at the NRA Annual Meetings a week ago, I happened to see a knife sharpener unlike any I’d seen before. The Warthog V-Sharp is quite the rig, as I’m sure the picture reveals. As an acid test, I handed them my Executive model Swiss Army knife. It had a near-shaving sharp edge, but the 440C stainless steel cannot hold that edge worth a darn. I told myself if they could do it better than me, I’d buy one of their machines.
Well, they did. My knife was no longer shaving-sharp – it was cutting sharp! And it still is 9 days later. The 25-deg. edge the Warthog V-Sharp put on the blade is a superior cutting edge. How superior, you ask? Enough to make me not think twice about spending $125 for a Warthog of my own.
The machine arrived last Wednesday and I was sharpening knives within minutes. By the end of the day, all my wife’s kitchen knives were sharp, along with 20 of my own. For the first time in our marriage, she actually raved about how sharp I’d gotten her knives. Before, when I got them shaving sharp, no single knife would hold up through a one-meal preparation. Now they can each handle several meals, and a 30-second touch-up gets them ready to go again. No more 2-hour sessions every two weeks (if I were inclined to keep them all sharp, which I’m not).
Two things you need to know about me – I’m lazy and I love sharp knives. Now that I use the Warthog V-Sharp, mine won’t quite shave hair anymore, but they’ll cut boxes, meat and vegetables all day. Besides, I already have a shaving razor.
I’m showing you all this because we’ve discussed sharpening knives in the blog. This machine is for those of you who want sharp knifes but don’t want to spend hours sharpening them.
Visit the Warthog website. Watch their instructive videos. I’m simply telling you that it really does work. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars for other stones, steels, ceramics, diamond stones and “systems” that didn’t do what this one does.
by B.B. Pelletier
Last time I said I would first try shooting the .25 caliber Walther Falcon Hunter with open sights, so that’s what I did. As I sighted-in, I was able to record some more impressions of the rifle.
It now opens with ease instead of the stiffness I reported earlier, so it did break-in as predicted. Cocking is now running 42-43 lbs., so there’s been a slight reduction there, as well. The rifle still requires a real effort to close the barrel. I believe the angle on the detent is a bit too shallow. I learned to snap it closed with authority.
Shooting off a bench all morning has left the impression of real recoil with this rifle. Some of that’s due to the light weight of the gun compared to the power it generates. This rifle is second in recoil only to the Webley Patriot, and it’s a very close second at that. A proper hold does help the situation a lot, however.
I experimented all morning to find the best hold, and when I found it, it turned out to be the old classic artillery hold with no modifications. No tops-of-the-fingers stuff for this rifle. Simply lay it on the flat of your open palm a little behind the balance point of the forearm so it’s a little muzzle-heavy.
I’m not trying to tease you
This rifle deserves a longer break-in, and I’m going to do it. As I shot through the morning, things kept getting better and better, but I could see there’s a way to go before we see the best the rifle has to offer. In that respect, it’s not too different from the Patriot/Kodiak, which also needed time to wear in. So, this isn’t the final report. Let me bring you up to speed regarding where things are right now. I put this statement in the middle of the report because some readers switch off once they see the first target.
The trigger is holding steady with a crisp but deliberate pull. I doubt there will be any advance in that area.
I tried shooting groups with the fiberoptic open sights, but they lack the precision needed for small bullseye targets. You may remember in Part 1 that I observed that the front post is wider than the rear notch. That bit me when I was shooting for precision, so I had to give it up and mount the Walther 3-9x44AO illuminated scope.
Wow! You certainly shouldn’t expect to find a great scope packaged with a magnum air rifle for under $270 – but here it is. This scope is great! It comes with the rings installed, so all you have to do is slide it onto the scope rail. The rings are thin one-screw models, but they seem to be holding up well thus far.
The scope was very quick and easy to sight-in at 21 yards, the distance I used because of very strong wind gusts. Then I went to work. Turned out that Beeman Kodiaks did best, as expected, but Beeman Ram Jets did well, too. The other pellets I tried were Beeman Crow Magnums and Diana Magnums. They didn’t do so well this time, but I will try them again the next time I go out, because the rifle is starting to settle into its groove.
Firing over 100 shots this morning, I’m beginning to see what shooters like about the Falcon Hunter. As it wears in, it assumes a familiar feel that tells me better things are in store in the days ahead. Also, the light weight of such a powerful spring rifle is refreshing. It doesn’t wear you out like a lot of other magnum blasters.
by B.B. Pelletier
I showed you a picture of the Smith & Wesson M&P BB pistol in Part 4 of the 2008 SHOT Show report. At that time, I predicted this would become a popular BB pistol. Today, we’ll start a look to see if I was right.
A tremendous number of BB pistols have come to market over the past few years. Where does this one fit in the long list? For starters, it’s priced well below $40, which will be attractive to many shooters on a budget. The entire outside of the gun is synthetic, which is the norm for this price range. The pistol closely copies Smith & Wesson’s popular new service pistol, though most of the controls are molded into the body and don’t function. Only the magazine release on the left side and the safety on the right side move and operate. The slide is also molded in and immobile. A short Picatinny rail forward of the triggerguard can accept a compact laser or tactical flashlight mount.
Another attraction to this gun is the S&W M&P tie-in. The polymer-framed service pistol has attracted a very large audience since its introduction in 2005. When you hold the BB gun, you get the same tactile feedback from a gun that was designed to become a part of your hand. I hate to make comparisons, but it really feels like a cross between a 1911 and a Luger. It’s a double-action only pistol with no visible hammer. The BB pistol has a stick-type magazine that holds only the BBs. The CO2 fits separately into the grip.
Charging with CO2
The M&P uses conventional 12-gram cartridges that install in the pistol grip. The grip panel is a single molded piece that slides straight back to expose the place for the CO2 cartridge. After putting a drop of oil on the tip of the new cartridge (the manual recommends RWS chamber lube, but lacking that, I used Crosman Pellgunoil), install the cartridge with the tip up and tighten the winding key at the bottom of the grip. The cartridge will be pierced after several turns and you’re done.
Usually, loading a BB pistol is difficult, but not with this one. Pull the sliding follower all the way down and it catches and stays back. Drop BBs through the hole in the magazine. A groove guides the BBs and it’s hard to drop them anywhere but where they’re supposed to go. Once loaded, the follower is released to do its job. BB pistols don’t load any easier than this. One thing to remember, though, and this holds true for most BB pistols made today: when the magazine is inserted, the top BB is released from the magazine. If you remove the mag for any reason, one BB will fall free from the grip, as well.
Being all-synthetic, the pistol is very light. Fully loaded and charged, it weighs just 18 ozs.!
The safety switch is on the right side of the frame and can be applied or disengaged with the trigger finger while holding the pistol in a shooting grip. It’s as quick and easy as a 1911 safety, which is legendary among pistols, so the M&P has something very nice going for it. When it’s applied, the trigger swings freely and you can tell in an instant the safety is on. If the firearm works the same way, I can see why S&W is doing so well.
The sights are a fiberoptic rear (two green dots) and a post front with a white dot. For combat shooting, you align all three dots and shoot. They will be quick to acquire, but there will be no bullseye precision. Minute-of-pop-can will be the best to hope for, I believe.
The grip is somewhat wide and rounded – sculpted to fit most hands. A deep overhang in the back gives it that Luger feel I mentioned.
On our next look, I’ll check the power, which is supposed to be high.