Beeman Crow Magnum/Theoben Eliminator - Part 2
by B.B. Pelletier
This is a continuation of the report from Friday.
Some readers advised me that gas springs are very susceptible to cold weather, so I tested them at 10 deg. F, 45 deg. F and 80 deg. F. It turned out that the gas spring lost less velocity in the cold (at 10 degrees) than a steel spring R1 I'd tuned. It did lose velocity, but not as much as the gun with all the grease on the coiled steel mainspring. When I reported that, I learned that some "professors" (that's what I call guys who always have a theory they can "prove" but never bother to test it) could explain in writing why my test was flawed. The gas spring should have lost much more energy than the steel spring, because gas loses pressure in the cold. Well, despite a cold soak of TWO HOURS, mine didn't!
If you're beginning to suspect that I used the Crow Magnum as a tool to test a lot of the street knowledge and myths about the performance of gas springs, you're right!
Then came the 5,000-shot endurance test I mentioned last Friday. I filled up the gas spring back to the 33 foot-pound level for this test. The pellet I chose for the test developed just over 30 foot-pounds. I could only cock the rifle for 50 shots per session, so I tried to do two sessions a day. By shot 1,000, the Crow had lost considerable power and I shipped it back to Beeman. Don Walker told me it had just been over-pumped, so he let some air out and sent it back. But the best power with that test pellet was now just 28 foot-pounds.
I never did learn why the power declined, but it was a couple foot-pounds below where it had been at the start of the test. No amount of careful filling could get those foot-pounds back, so I released even more air and continued the test at 27 foot-pounds. But that episode took the wind out of my sails! I felt I was struggling to prove a point that nobody cared about, because those who will buy the Leupold scope I mounted on it will do so with or without my test results, and those who won't will not be convinced by me. So, I set the rifle aside for two years and did other things.
What I should have bought...
But our Airgun Letter readers didn't forget. Along with Ben Taylor, they were telling me that I had picked the wrong caliber for the rifle. They said the .20 caliber was what I really should test.
I sent our rifle to Davis Schwesinger at Air Rifle Specialists for a caliber conversion. Dave was the first U.S. Theoben importer and he had many parts on hand, plus he knew the Theoben system better than anyone. Dave happened to have a customer who really wanted a .25, so he swapped our barrels and did a checkup on my rifle at the same time. He said it was in top shape, but on Ben Taylor's recommendation and with parts Theoben donated, Dave rebuilt the gas spring and gave me a new piston seal.
The .20 was not as accurate as the .25!
I shot and shot the rifle with the new .20 caliber barrel to no avail. The power was back up but the accuracy was horrible! I couldn't shoot a group smaller than 1.25" at 40 yards to save my life. Our readers and others on the internet were convinced, I am sure, that I had it in for Theoben, and this was a long drawn-out plot to discredit them. This was reported in November of 1999.
At the 2000 SHOT Show in February, Ben Taylor met me and we sat and discussed the rifle. We talked at length about scopes, shooting positions, handling and pellets. I assured him I was using Crosman Premiers, which he said were the absolute best for the gun. Then he asked me how often I cleaned the barrel. I said never. In those days I believed that cleaning an airgun barrel only promotes wear and damage. That was about to change.
...and that's where the cleaning comes from!
My friends, the ranting I do about cleaning air rifle barrels with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound came out of this conversation! Taylor told me that Crosman pellets are made from hard lead that smears on the inside of any steel rifle bore and eventually has to be removed. I had no idea what the guy who owned the barrel before me had done to it, but I bet he never heard of this, either. I went home from the SHOT Show and immediately cleaned the bore Taylor's way, then re-tested the rifle. Hallelujah! It worked! Finally, I had an accurate Crow Magnum. I could then report the super groups everyone had come to expect.
I was now able to group five Crosman Premiers inside 0.318" at 35 yards with a clean barrel. Five Beeman Kodiaks grouped as small as 0.335". Finally, I saw the accuracy that everyone had been shouting about, and I had to admit it was good. The rifle was now delivering about 24 foot-pounds, which is very good for a hunting air rifle.
When RWS brought out their 20 foot-pound .22-caliber Theoben-built RA800, I knew it needed a clean barrel, so there was never a bobble testing that gun. It took much less effort to cock than the Crow Magnum, and I always thought it was a great rifle. Too bad they discontinued it so soon.
I eventually sold the Crow Magnum, because The Airgun Letter bought most of the airguns for testing. We couldn't afford to sit on a huge inventory of guns we no longer needed. Had the rifle been my personal rifle, I might not have sold it.
So, Timothy and all others who have contemplated a Theoben Eliminator, I've told you what I know about them. They're great air rifles, as long as you know what to expect.