Why do we collect airguns?

by B.B. Pelletier

I was reading the Yellow Forum recently and happened across a comment by an acquaintance of mine, Ted Summers. After his comment, he quoted something I wrote in the second Airgun Revue. I’d like you to see it, too:

Some day, every airgun in your collection is going to belong to someone else. You only “own” them for a brief period, and then they’re on the block again. Don’t fret about this – it’s how you got them in the first place. Think about it.

There’s a lot to ponder in that statement. For some reason, that’s exactly what I have been doing for the past few weeks. I look at what I have and wonder why I have it. At some point in time, each gun was important to me, but as I look them all over, many have faded to the background. So I have to ask myself: Why do I own them?

My first collection
I own 8 nice Daisy No. 25 pump BB guns, and I know why I do. When I was a kid, I bought a 25 for $5 from my sister’s boyfriend. It was a wonderful 1936-type engraved gun with lots of deep bluing and great power. But several days after I bought it, the power went away. In desperation, I disassembled the gun partway – for reasons I cannot fathom, because what was I going to do after that? My parents were against me owning BB guns, so I didn’t feel they would be sympathetic to this problem. After creating a basket case, I sold it to a friend for a quarter just to get it out of my life. Two days later, he returned with the gun assembled and shooting powerfully again. He told me his father put it back together then showed him how to oil the piston seal to make the gun shoot hard. That was insult heaped on my injured pride!


The No. 25 pump gun is one of my favorites, but I sure don’t need 8 of them. At the top is a 1913 first-model, followed by a 1914 second-model. Third gun down is a transition gun from 1916-1918 and the bottom one is a 1930 model.

So as an adult, I have an attraction to the No. 25 pump gun. I’ve learned as much about them as I can, and I’ve tuned a couple in the process. Now I look at the 8 in my collection and see redundancy. I don’t need or even want all 8 any more. I’ll take a couple of them to airgun shows and sell them or trade for something I do want. The others I’ll keep, because that old wound is not completely healed.

Odd gun becomes an obsession
Another gun in my collection is a Kruger cap-firing BB gun from Wamo. Actually, I own two of them, and I’m in pursuit of the Western Haig pistol I wrote about last week. Wamo made that one, too. These aren’t even airguns in the strictest sense, because they use caps to propel the projectile. In a very distant way, they’re actually firearms!


The Kruger ’98 was Wamo’s idea of cleverly suggesting a Luger without copyright infringement. It used toy caps to propel either a BB or .12 caliber lead shot (they came in both calibers).


Western Haig wasn’t sold under the Wamo/Wham-o name, but the owner of Wamo held the patent on the gun.

My mother bought me a Kruger as my first BB gun. You can read about it here. It was a horrible failure as a gun, but it stuck in my mind like a homely classmate you can never quite forget. After I started writing about airguns, I became aware that Wamo also made a .22 rimfire single-shot pistol called the Powermaster. Then, through my airgunning friends Bob Speilvogel and Richard Schmidt, I discovered that Wamo also made two other different .22 rimfire guns they probably never advertised. When I contacted Wham-o (they now go by that spelling, but they’re the same company) to ask about the history of the Powermaster, they denied ever making it and insisted Wamo must have been a different company.


Wamo Powermaster was one of three different .22 rimfire firearms made by Wamo/Wham-o.

That transparent lie (which I can prove) lit a fire under me! As I researched the Powermaster, it became clear that no one has ever researched this story or documented many of these guns. Now I’m on a quest for information about the history of the company and about the six firearms they made (including the Krugers and the Western Haig). I’m compiling my research into a large article for Shotgun News this fall. I guess the point in this case is that you shouldn’t lie to a writer! And, I will not be parting with any of my Wamo/Wham-o guns in the forseeable future.

The unloved as well
Just as there are guns I cannot part with, there are others that leave me cold. I once owned a beautiful HW77 that had been tuned to a gnat’s eyelash. It was a rifle of which I was very proud. Then I got a TX200 that legendary tuner Ken Reeves tuned for me. It did everything the 77 did…just a little better. I let the 77 go. At the time, I said I didn’t need two perfect rifles. Then I got a TX200 Mark III that topped my Reeves-tuned Mark II and the Mark II went away. So, in the case of fine underlever field target rifles, I guess there is only room for one in my heart.

When I add up the 10-meter target pistols I have owned, people might get the wrong impression. I have at one time owned two FWB 65s, two Walther LP IIIs, A Walther LP 53, a Diana model 10, a Drulov DU-10, an IZH 46 and a Chameleon. Only the 46 and the Chameleon remain, and I keep them because I can compete with either one. The others were great collectibles, but not up to the task of a full 10-meter match for one reason or another.

I know collectors whose whole lives are wrapped up in their airguns, but I’m not like that. I do live to shoot, and I get to sample a lot of different airguns and firearms in the process, but it takes a special bond for one of them to stay with me. Perhaps the strongest attraction I have is to a gun that has never been reported, or to one that’s tied to my youth in some way. I suppose the attraction is different for everyone, but each of us has some compelling reason why we select the airguns we do.

This report was written especially for The Big Bore Addict, who’s now putting his collection together.

46 Responses to “Why do we collect airguns?”

  • JP Says:

    I think I know what you mean. Despite it’s falling apart, I still love my 22SG enough to try to reassemble it, although I’ve other, more powerful replacements in mind. I’ve also acquired a Crosman Powermaster 66, and it has proven that I can like .177. It would be the doghouse for me if ever my wife found my wishlist….JP

  • thedavemyster Says:

    Thanks, BB, that was a cool posting; I have a 1947 Red Ryder that a friend of mine rebuilt and restored and sold me just last year; I had always wanted one as a kid, but my parents wouldn’t let me get one. And though I’ve bought and sold many airguns, I’ve always kept the first air rifle I ever got, a nice old Sheridan my Dad got me when I was 16; it’s not just an airgun; it’s a “time machine,” because each time I even just pick it up, it reminds me of pleasant days afield in my youth…ah, nostalgia. =)

  • Nate in Cincy Says:

    What about the obvious answer? When my airgunless friends come over en masse, I can put a rifle in each one of their hands for some plinkin’. All your friends shooting in the backyard? Priceless.

  • Jim in KS Says:

    B.B. -

    Interesting post. This isn’t technical… it’s philosophical. Personally, there are elements of nostalgia mixed with a lifelong fascination with guns in general.

    When you wrote the post about how to make your own leather piston seal, I commented that I have the Daisy 99 that was my first gun nearly fifty years ago, and that it would be helpful to know how to restore it. The original seal is still working pretty well, and it continues to be very accurate at the bb gun range of 15 feet. The children of a few of my friends have learned gun safety and basic marksmanship with it. This will be my grandson’s first gun when he is old enough.

    Other than connecting with my past, airguns fill some practical niches in my life. I have a full schedule and don’t get to the gun club range with my firearms for weeks or even months at a time. With a ten meter range in my basement, I get to shoot every day. With my love of guns and shooting, that qualifies as therapy. I spend my working hours thinking about a million different things at the same time. When I shoot, I’m only thinking about delivering a pellet to a point. For me, that’s a way to relax and clear my head. I guess I’m a zen shootist.

    I have also posted in the past that practice with airguns has helped me keep my skills up with firearms. Nothing takes the place of daily practice in regard to trigger control, breath control, shot visualization, etc. Obviously, recoil is different from airguns to firearms, but the proof is in the results. I can take a firearm to the range after months of absence, and still shoot well with it. A lot better than I shot before I started practicing with airguns about two years ago.

    When deciding which airguns to buy or keep, accuracy is the standard. I subscribe to the notion that “Only accurate guns are interesting”. If an airgun won’t challenge my skill, it needs to find a new home. In general, I only keep the guns that I shoot.

    Currently, I’m pretty fascinated with springers. I have a tuned Remington Summit that continues to improve with every tin of pellets. Last night, it was shooting .125 in. 5-shot groups at 10 meters with Exacts. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Beeman HW97K, and have already decided that it will be with me for a very long time. Not only will it put every Beeman FTS pellet through the same hole, but it is not particularly hold sensitive and very stable on target. For some reason, the aim point is also very reliable. Scope shift isn’t an issue with this gun. I am still waiting for some IZH 60′s to make it to the U.S. When they do, I’ll buy one. I can only keep up with shooting about a half a dozen guns at a time with any proficiency, so my collection will never be very big.

    - Jim in KS

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Jim in KS,

    Refurbishing BB guns is a whole different ball game than fixing a spring-piston pellet rifle. Although BB guns do have a spring piston, they also use the air transfer port to push the BB off its seat and start it down the bore. I wrote an article for the Blue Book of Airguns about the BB gun powerplant, which I consider to be a hybrid of a spring piston and a catapult.

    There is a fixture that holds the BB gun action and compresses the mainspring when you remove the spring keeper. Without this fixture, working on a BB gun is a three-handed operation. With it, it’s simple.

    According to my information, a BB gun mechanism should give between a quarter-million and one million shots before it needs anything. That’s if you keep it clean and oiled. The U.S. Army was getting 10 to 20 million shots from their Quick Kill Daisys, which they then surplussed. And the guns are still in operation today.

    The IZH supply problem doesn’t look good. Pyramyd has so many backorders that the shipments evaporate before they go online.

    B.B.

  • Bart Says:

    B.B. Pelletier,

    I read your complete blog and as much as I enjoy it to read, I still miss a good review of a BSA Lightning XL/XL Tactical.
    Could you do a review of this BSA?

    With kind regards, Bart

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bart,

    While I would like to do a review of the BSA Lightning XL, it is only distributed in the U.S. by a competitor of Pyramyd Air, who owns this blog. I’m sorry.

    B.B.

  • Bart Says:

    b.b.,

    I understand.
    Didn’t Pyramyd Air, sell BSA’s in the past, why did they stop?

    Regards, Bart

  • Anonymous Says:

    When you test airguns for accuracy in your articles do you ever sort the pellets by weight?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bart,

    Pyramyd Air did carry BSA when the supply of guns was dependable. Then it became less dependable and left too many of their buyers with a long wait time.

    The supply is probably better now, but enough time passed that Pyramyd decided to complete its line with other models.

    However, if you are interested in the rifle (which looks very nice, by the way) there are plenty of reviews on the web. Most are from England, where the gun is a 12 foot-pound limit gun, but the rest of it is the same.

    And remember, BSA makes some of the best airgun barrels in the world.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Pellet sorter,

    Normally I don’t sort pellets by weight when I test a gun for accuracy. When I want to put the best possible face on the report I will sort them, but I will always tell you in the report that I did.

    When I competed in field target, I always shot with weight-sorted pellets. They will improve accuracy.

    B.B.

  • DB Says:

    B.B.,
    Did you notice the price change on the CP 22 Domed? Changed from $14.65 per box to $22.99 per box. WOW…

    Good thing I ordered several boxes with my Discovery a month ago and they have not shipped yet. PA is honoring the lower price on that order.

    Folks that use the CP might want to place an order on the CP in the tin cans. The price for those has not changed yet.

    DB

  • Felice Luftschein Says:

    I read that post yesterday, besides the quote being true of airguns it translates to the other world I travel in, that of the home shop machinist. I have many tools that belonged to people who have passed on, or given up.

    On the subject of air gun collecting, right now I’m definitely in the acquisition mode. But as with many of us budget is an issue. So I’m buying beaters generally and leveraging my home shop skills to make them at least into good shooters again. It combines two hobbies in one and is highly interesting. That’s why I am generally looking for types of powerplants or odd implementations so that I have the spectrum of air gun types in my collection. That’s why I recently bought the Predom, so I could have a Jeffries(?)/Walther type powerplant to examine. I’m interested in the technology.

    But ultimately the reason for owning the guns is to shoot them, so if I have a gun I don’t shoot, I try and make time to shoot it. I’ve made it easier to get at my airguns and set up a range out the back door. One day I may shoot my FWB124, the next a Sheridan.

    There are many guns on my wanted list, that I’ll eventually find. It’s part of the fun of collecting. Being a millionaire would take all the challenge out of it.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    DB,

    Yes, the world rise in lead p[rices has finally hit the American pellets. People are upset about this, but it’s showing up everywhere.

    Just means it’s almost time for a big raise, I guess.

    B.B.

  • db Says:

    Just ordered several tins of JSB and AA pellets. Figured they would be going up next.

  • ajvenom Says:

    wow..I have bought a lot of pellets before and just placed an order a week ago for 8 tins. Usually you can average about 1 penny for .177 and 2 cents for .22 caliber pellets. Now it looks as if the prices have seemed to have nearly doubled. A also bought a few thousand rounds of .22LR through mail order to try the service out.

    Lot of the big box stores quit selling some pellets I liked and at the prices I liked too.

    I have a feeling .177 may become a litte more popular now, but I still prefer .22 for small game hunting.

    As for collecting, I sold my crosman 766 AR when I was a teen and missed it ever since. For my standards it was very accurate. So now I have a 2100b, but can only find the accuracy with one type of pellet, the beeman 1222 coated hollow points, which I can only find at one local store.

    After learning about CO2s, springers, pcps etc….now I have a few ARs and BB guns just to have a variety and some pistols too. Many of my friends love to shoot firearms and when we can’t get out and shoot them, we have a great time with the AGs.

  • BG_Farmer Says:

    BB,
    I guess I’m not a collector at heart, but I do have 2 Red Ryders (because after 30 years of use [by me and four younger brothers] the first one earned a break)…they are my son’s current favorite, too. Otherwise, if it doesn’t get used regularly, it never gets bought or will be traded or sold. That said, I enjoy looking at collections, especially those with model variations — thanks for showing us some of yours.

  • nate in mass Says:

    Hey BB,
    That piece anout the no. 25 reminded me of one of the series from Remembering When. Are any of those other stories true experiences?

    Nate in Mass

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Nate,

    None of those stories are true or even based on experiences that were real. I started writing when a guy gave me a picture of two boys holding BB guns. It was a vintage picture from 1900-1910, but the older boy had lost one leg. He was standing there with a smile on his face, and the picture intrigued me so much I wrote a fictional story about it for the Airgun Revue.

    One thing led to another and I wrote a lot more stories.

    B.B.

  • Vince Says:

    BB, that Wamo Powermaster is obviously related to the old Daisy model 100 CO2 pistol (and the 200 as well). What’s the connection?

    BTW – I sure hope the increase in price also reflects better QC on Crosman’s part. The Premiers (boxed and tinned) were getting pretty sloppy…

  • db Says:

    All,
    My family thinks I’m an airgun collector because there are several in my gun locker.

    But… there is nothing as cool as some of you own. Did come up with an interesting thought though.

    The airgun that is in my hand the most is one of my least favorite. It is a Crosman AutoAir II CO2. I shoot this in one in my office several times a day at about a 10 foot range. No it is not powerful or real accurate or even real cool looking. But… it is a hoot to shoot 17 BB’s just as fast as you can pull the trigger.

    Also have a Crosman 1008 that almost never gets used anymore because it jams too much.

    My next most used is my 1377 with a rifle stock. This gun is accurate at 10 to 25 yards. This one gets used at lunch break when the weather is nice or when a possum wanders into the yard.

    My Benji 22 multi pump pistol was my most favorite for many a year. it is not in working condition anymore – hopefully soon it will get a refresh and be back in my hand again.

    DB

  • db Says:

    All,
    Now that I think about it there is one gun that I’d almost never part with. It is the Daisy single pump repeater that was used to teach all three of my children to shoot.

    It was purchased when the youngest was a bit to young to shoot. So she watch me shoot it until one day it was gifted to her. Then she in turn re-gifted it to he younger brother who in turn passed it down to the next in line.

    I did say almost never part with. The only thing that will pry that gun from my hands is the smile of a grandchild. And she is only one year old right now… so I can hang onto it for a while longer.

    DB

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B.

    Excellent post! It brings back memories of my first b.b. gun, a used lever gun of some sort from a yard sale. I got it when I was four I believe and loved it.

    Question on the TX200 Mark III. Your gun I assume (and I know what happens when you assume) is a .177 that you speak so highly about. What do you think about the .22 TX200 Mark III? I am in the market for a .22 that has serious potential for accuracy.

    thanks jw

  • db Says:

    Vince,
    Was also wondering if CP would use the price increase to pay for better QC.

    Ajvenom,
    Hate to bust your bubble but the 177 CP are exactly the same price as the 22 CP. No cost saving for shooting smaller bore.

    DB

  • Anonymous Says:

    Dear Sir,

    Between Diana RWS 350 Mag and Benjamin Super Streak, both in .177, what would you choose?

    Thank you.

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B. (and all)

    Thanks for exploring the mysteries about why people own guns and shoot them. I haven’t fathomed my own motives entirely yet, but it sure is fun. I’m not planning to part with any of the guns I have or plan to get after agonizing so much over my choices. But if they really do last for centuries with the proper care which I will make sure to give them, then I guess you’re right that someone else will own them someday.

    My own criteria for guns–similar to other bloggers–is to get good shooters that represent some variety. I’ve got all the powerplants except PCP and multi-pump, both rifles and pistols, and a range of powers. But I have to admit they’re not all strictly necessary….

    Fiction writer, huh.

    Matt61

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Vince,

    The connection between the Wamo P{owermaster and the Daisy 100 is interesting. I covered it in Airgun Revue back in 1998. Floyd Hyde converted the Powermaster to a CO2 pistol that Daisy them acquired. The Hyde pistol was manufactured for a very short time in 1959-1960.

    I will be covering this in full in my Shotgun News article in July.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    JW,

    My gun is a .177, as you assume. I do hear great reports on the .22, as well.

    The TX 200 is at such a whole different level of sophistication, that it’s hard to imagine a bad one. I would say order one with confidence.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    RWS Diana 350,

    You have asked a difficult question. The RWS Diana 350 Magnum is a wonderfully powerful breakbarrel. So is the Benjamin Super Streak.

    The difference between them is the Benjamin’s stock is proportioned much larger than the 350. The 350 feels like a 1903 Springfield – normal for an average-sized man. The Benjamin feels like a Winchester Model 70 in .458 Magnum – huge, for a giant.

    I’m average sized, so the 350 Magnum fits me better.

    B.B.

  • .22 multi-shot Says:

    Wow!, I wish I could collect more airguns. Maybe someday my wife will come around. I just passed up a Crosman 167, type 1 rifle at the flea market (for $10) for two reasons. First because it looked like it was going to require LOTS of work to restore and second because I knew my wife wouldn’t like me bringing another gun home.

    My nephew bought that 167 and is in the process of restoring it. At least I get to help him with it a little! The bolt was VERY stiff and there was quite a bit of rust on the outside of the barrel, but he says the inside is pretty clean, it just had five pellets stuck in it! He also says the bolt slides freely after cleaning.

    Like Nate said, it is nice to have enough guns to go around when your friends come over!

    .22 multi-shot

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    .22 Multi-shot,

    Some day I’ll tell you about the guns I had to pass up. They make me shudder!

    And I may also recount the “experiment” I performed in front of witnesses at a gun show, where I made $50 in five minutes.

    B.B.

  • Bob from Oz Says:

    G’day BB

    Talk about nostalgia, as a kid the urban legend was the Fork 90 (cant remember the spelling..Fawke..Fauke???) most powerful air rifle in the world??? Never saw one but did see a Fork 50.

    Was this company absorbed into another German company?

    Cheers Bob

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bob,

    The one company is called Falke, which is German for falcon, I believe. I have never heard of the Fork.

    I don’t know what happened to Falke, but they don’t seem to be around today, so they must have gone away in the ’70s or ’80s.

    Anyone know?

    B.B.

  • .22 multi-shot Says:

    BB,

    I’d like to hear about the guns you’ve had to pass up.

    .22 multi-shot

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    .22 multi-shot,

    It might make a good post, but I’d better get a few bread-and-butter ones under my belt before I do another soft one.

    Remind me in a couple weeks?

    B.B.

  • .22 multi-shot Says:

    Ok, I’ll remind you in a couple of weeks.

    .22 multi-shot

  • JDB in NY Says:

    Hello BB,

    Speaking of attractions to collecting, mine is Replicas. I’m probably not alone in wanting to collect replica guns. Many cannot afford or legally own many of the real firearms. Airguns give us a way to experience the look and feel for a reasonable price. And they shoot too!!!
    I think Umarex probably has the largest assortment of airgun replicas of any manufacturer. CP-88, CP-99, SW 586, PPK, PX4, 1911A1, Lever Rifle, etc. Others include the vintage SW 78g(mod 41 replica), Crosman M-1, and many more I’m sure. I guess the airsoft guys are really into replicas too!
    Just thought I would share my collecting passion.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    JDB,

    Have you read my article about replicas on my website?

    http://www.airgunwriter.com/lookalike-airguns.html

    B.B.

  • Bob from Oz Says:

    G’day BB

    With your spelling of Falke I found this article which might interest you.

    http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u70/Garvin1/Falke1.jpg

    http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u70/Garvin1/Falke2.jpg

    Cheers Bob

  • JDB in NY Says:

    Yes, read that some time ago. Thanks for the reminder. Might make a good blog post. As you said, there are oodles of replicas. There is probably one to satisfy any airgunners interest!

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bob from Oz,

    Nice article! Thanks.

    And it confirms why accurate spelling is so important on the internet.

    B.B.

  • Perk Says:

    BB,
    Have a friend, who’s in his 80′s and has a Haenel Model III DRP break barrel rifle, in .22 cal.

    The furniture looks good and it’s been kept well-lubed. Barrel looks straight and is in fine shape (as air rifle barrels can tend to be).

    Have been looking for more about this rifle, but there doesn’t seem to be much information available.

    Aside from the Blue Book, is there any place further I might look? Told him I’d check around, as he’s not big into computers…
    Thank you,
    Perk

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Perk,

    I had a Haenel model III DRP that had 90 percent original blue. I paid $300 for it. Unfortunately, I took it to a gunsmith to extract a broken barrel pivot bolt and he put it into an unpadded vice that left teeth marks in the metal. The valve then was about $100.

    B.B.

  • Dan Says:

    I have a Haenel Model III DRP that is in great shape. I shoot it nearly every week. I know a decent bit about my gun. Tell me what you are interested in knowing about it, Perk. I will do my best to answer your questions. I have quite a few Haenels in truth. :)

    All the best; I am home from Iraq in about 3 weeks. Whooohoooo! Lots of guns to shoot lol!

    -Dan

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hello, I realize this is a very old post, but I was unsure how else to contact you. I have a Western Haig Pistol up for sale. It is in the original box, with the original instructions, even the metal rod. The gun appears to be unfired. It looks like it was ordered and then left to sit on a shelf. It is on Ebay right now if you wish to take a look.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Okay,

    I am letting my blog readers know about it. There isn't enough time left for me to announce it in the blog, but I will put it in the comments of today's blog.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    B.B.

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