Archive for July 2009

What is coming to the world of airguns?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today being Friday, I want to give youse guys something to talk about all weekend. As for me, I’m in the Catskills, filming new episodes of American Airgunner.

Coming soon
Well, Crosman has a PCP pistol that’s going to hit the market pretty soon, which I mean by Christmas. If not by then, certainly early next year. I shot it while in New York and it’s both powerful and accurate. Imagine a 2240 with a longer barrel and reservoir tube. I was able to cut weed stems at 23 yards when shooting in the Creedmore position. Imagine this thing as an affordable air pistol! Look for 12 foot-pounds.

There’s been an awakening among airgun manufacturers in the past three years. There’s been more innovation in the past three years than in the 40 years before that. I don’t think the trend has peaked yet, so I look for some surprises in the near future. The companies to watch are AirForce, Gamo, Crosman and FX.

I expect an affordable electric compressor capable of filling an air rifle to 3,000 psi by the SHOT Show of 2010. I expect it to run on both 110 house current and 12-volt car current, and it should take just a few minutes to fill a standard-sized PCP like a Hammerli Pneuma. Best of all, I expect the retail price to be at or below $500.

In a couple of years
There’s a new type of powerplant on the horizon. I expect to see it in production within the next couple of years. Performance will be equal to certain centerfire firearms. It will revolutionize the world of sporting airguns when it comes to market.

The world of spring guns has not come to a standstill. With guns like the Chinese AR1000 and all of its derivatives on the market, I know we have not yet reached the end. I remember spring rifles that many of you have never seen. Rifles like those from Ivan Hancock. His powerful actions were as smooth as butter, yet they delivered the greatest power in their class. I expect to see another round of rifles just as nice but manufactured rather than hand-built.

On the far horizon
Many people think 10-meter airguns have gone as far as they can, technologically. I disagree. I believe there’s room for a novel new type of sight for air pistols that makes them much easier to shoot. Remember the success of bicycling’s world hour record holder, Graeme Obree (a.k.a. The Flying Scotsman), who set the racing world on edge with his homemade bicycles and the “Superman” riding style that has now been banned?

I believe that a novel new sighting system along the lines of the aperture system used on rifles could have a huge impact on air pistol competition.

There’s no good reason that PCPs are as expensive as they are. When Crosman brought out the Benjamin Discovery, they shattered the PCP price barrier. Oh, the Chinese already had a cheap PCP, but it wasn’t what I consider a credible gun. The Disco showed the world what can be done. Well, I know a secret. We haven’t gone as far as it’s possible to go, yet.

In the world of engineering, there’s a process called a Pareto analysis in which you study a design to do more with less. This process is so successful that it is at the heart of “Japanese” management, which is nothing more than allowing the people closest to the operation (the worker bees) to have a large hand in the design. A Pareto analysis could be done on the Disco that could yield remarkable savings.

I think we have not yet discovered the best relationship of spring load to power and cocking effort in spring guns. I look for a 20-25 foot-pound rifle in the future that takes only 30 lbs. to cock.

We DEFINITELY haven’t seen all the optimum pellet designs, yet. I believe there’s a great long-range pellet on the horizon. In fact, I’ve been working on one, so I know that something is being done in this department.

So, that’s my look at what I think is coming in airguns. Now, tell us what YOU think!

Gamo Extreme CO2 – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I’m on the road again starting today. I’m heading to Crosman and then on to the American Airgunner studio. I should be back in the office next Friday, or perhaps on Thursday.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the Gamo Extreme CO2. Before we do that, though, I had to mount a scope. The BSA 2-7x scope that came with my Beeman C1 carbine wasn’t doing anything at the moment, so I switched it to the Extreme CO2 and sighted-in at 10 feet. It took two shots to get on paper, and I was ready to move back to 25 yards. [I got distracted due to so many things happening at the same time & so many guns arriving for testing and review, that I completely spaced out the fact that the Extreme CO2 comes with a scope and one-piece mount!]

As I was doing that, however, it dawned on me what is different about this rifle. The circular clip doesn’t stick up above the top of the receiver! That’s a big deal, because it means you can mount a scope with a low profile. Almost every other circular clip on CO2 and PCP repeaters sticks up above the receiver, necessitating the use of two-piece scope mounts and often high mounts for clearance.

The circular clip doesn’t stick up above the receiver!

At 25 yards, the first pellet was low and to the right, so I made a final adjustment that brought the pellets to the bullseye. Then I proceeded to shoot some groups. The first was 10 JSB Exact Jumbo 15.8-grain pellets.

JSB Exacts
15.8-grain JSB Exacts printed high on the bull at 25 yards. A group of ten measured 1.075″. The wind was dead calm and there was nothing to disturb the pellet’s flight. I stopped at 10 because that was a clip full and it seemed reasonable.

JSB Exact 15.8-grain pellets made this 10-shot group at 25 yards.

JSB Exact heavies
Next, I tried a group of 10 of the new 18-grain JSB Exact heavy pellets. They went into a tighter 0.974″ group at 25 yards. You can see the performance in the pictures. While I was shooting these, the sliding forearm came off the gun three times, so a word of caution to shooters–don’t pull it forward too hard!

JSB Exact 18-grain pellets made this 10-shot group. The elevation was adjusted down but nothing else was changed

Crosman Premier
The next pellet I tried was the Crosman Premier. It shifted the point of aim and was clearly not a good pellet in this rifle. The 10-shot group measures 1.538″ and is way too open.

Crosman Premiers were obviously not the right pellets for the rifle.

RWS Superdome
Finally I tried 10 RWS Superdome pellets. They gave the smallest group of the day, at just 0.928.”

RWS Superdomes were the best of the four pellets tested.

Shooting the rifle
The 88-gram CO2 cartridges are a real blessing when you just want to shoot and not be bothered with upkeep. All you have to do is load the clip and put it back in the receiver for the next 10 shots. The trigger has a long, somewhat creepy pull. Because this is a gas gun, I was able to lay it directly on a sandbag, which made sighting easier and the heavy trigger was not so much of a problem. The BSA scope that had been doubtful in the test of the C1 performed very well in this test. It isn’t as clear as most Leapers scopes I use, but plenty clear on a sunny day. The focus was sharp and crisp.

So, the rifle comes through the test with good marks. It’s not in the Benjamin Discovery class, but it’s probably just as accurate as a Hammerli 850 Air Magnum, which many of you wondered about. And we know that it’s also plenty powerful. A good repeater for not a lot of money.

Gamo Lady Recon – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The .177 Lady Recon looks pretty in pink!

If you’ve read this blog for a long time, you know I’m constantly on the lookout for kids’ guns. They have to be sized small, lightweight, easy to cock or operate, and accurate. I prefer them to have open sights because I think all kids should learn to use them before moving to optics.

Today’s air rifle, the Gamo Lady Recon, has the small size, light weight and open sights I like to see. It barely squeaks by with a cocking effort of 18 lbs.–the maximum I want in a youth model. Yes, I read the specs on the PA website that say 19 lbs., but I also tested the test rifle. Accuracy we’ll have to test later.

The rifle is short, at just over 37 inches overall and light at 4.63 lbs. That makes it a delight to hold for long periods. Not only do children enjoy that but a large percentage of oldsters do, as well. Gamo rates the trigger-pull at 3.3 lbs. That would be about 3 lbs., 6 oz., or so. The trigger on the test rifle breaks at 4 lbs., even, which is not too far off the spec.

It’s pink!
But being the Lady Recon, this rifle has a pink stock. And not just a pink stock–according to my wife, it’s mauve, which she tells me is a purpleish-pink, but I believe the makers were going after a shocking pink stock! To me, it looks right, but I’m red-green colorblind. Anyhow, the stock is colored for the pleasure of distaff shooters.

I remember at a SHOT Show several years ago seeing a pink Crosman 760 Pumpmaster and my wife remarking how good it looked. Since then, I’ve seen firearms follow suit and now this airgun. It’ll be a hard sell to a young boy, but perfect for a girl who enjoys the color! I note on the Pyramyd Air website that the black Recon has 8 reviews while the Lady Recon has none as of this writing. Perhaps this coming holiday season will change that.

In case you are wondering, I did a 3-part review of the Gamo Recon in 2008. So, there are targets and velocities to check against. No, I don’t think the pink stock will have any affect on the gun’s performance, but as it so happens that other Recon was underpowered. So we’ll have a second look at the powerplant with this one. The first Recon’s trigger broke at 2 lbs., 9 ozs., so maybe this one will break-in over time.

The safety is manual, a feature that I must applaud. Automatic safeties are no safer than manual safeties–it all depends on the responsible habits of the shooter.

As it turns out, the Lady Recon has one thing the regular Recon doesn’t have–open sights! And no fiberoptics means these are sights that can really be used for precision shooting! While the rear sight can be easily removed, the front is cast into the barrel casing and cannot come off without cutting.

The ambidextrous synthetic stock does not sound hollow except at the pistol grip. You can see that by looking up the pistol grip that is open on the bottom. Being fully ambidextrous and a breakbarrel, the rifle favors neither right- nor left-hand use. The length of pull is 12-3/4″, the same as the black stock.

The barrel is the same thin steel unit as the black Recon. It’s encased in an attractive, synthetic, fluted barrel that looks rather sharp.

The powerplant has the same buzz I noted in the earlier review. It’s not excessive, but I’m not used to Gamo guns buzzing anymore.

This will be a quick little test and comparison to the other Recon. I just want to be able to refer back to it this coming Christmas.

RWS Model LP8 Magnum – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The .177 RWS LP8 pistol is a big, beautiful spring pistol.

You knew I would get to the RWS Model LP8 Magnum because I’m also testing the Browning 800 Mag, and the two are related in many reader’s minds. This pistol is made by Diana in Germany, but it bears a lot of resemblance to the Browning. It’s big, at 3.2 lbs. and 18 inches long, it’s black and it claims a velocity of 700 f.p.s. Like the Browning, the RWS LP8 is also a breakbarrel, but that’s where the similarity ends.

This gun has very little in the way of synthetic parts. The fully adjustable fiberoptic sights have plastic fiberoptic tubes, of course, but even their mounts are made of metal. It is as if someone in Germany is listening to the world’s airgunners.

The LP8 has no cocking aide, though a preliminary examination of the gun suggests that it could use one. Make no mistake that this is an adult air pistol and not suited to youngsters. I do know, however, that the cocking effort will get easier with time, and also the owner soon learns the exact geometry to make cocking possible with the least effort.

This is a new model for Diana, but a continuation of the line of breakbarrel pistols they’ve been making since 1907. The model immediately before this one was the P5 Magnum, another large breakbarrel pistol that was also rated at 700 f.p.s., but the gun I tested did not achieve that velocity.

The LP8 retails for $289.25 as of this report, which is slightly more than the last price for the P5 Magnum. Even so, those who have rated it give it high marks for accuracy and power, as well as for how well made they feel it is. Criticisms have been leveled at the non-adjustable trigger for being too stiff. In my experience, Diana triggers always need time to break in.

The two-stage trigger on the test gun is superb! It’s one of the finest sporting spring air pistol triggers I’ve used–very light and crisp. And the firing behavior is solid with almost no vibration. I can see how an owner would grow to love this pistol.

The safety is automatic and also ambidextrous! The latter was a complete surprise. Other than the Beeman P1, I don’t think I’ve seen an ambidextrous safety on another spring pistol. Like the safety on the P1, this one can be operated by the trigger finger, so there’s no need to waste time shifting hands to take off the safety.

Scope rail
One novel feature is the presence of an 11mm dovetail rail set atop the receiver, making this pistol acceptable to optical sights. Indeed, at least one reviewer has mounted a scope on his gun. I doubt I’ll do that, because I find pistol scopes to be incongruous; but I’ll devote the time to make the iron sights do their job. Some of the reviewers rate it as being accurate, but one says it isn’t. I suspect his problem stems from trying to shoot a spring gun directly off sandbags, which is an accuracy destroyer.

The grips are new from Diana. They feature finger grooves and a slight palm swell. There’s also a vestigial thumbrest that serves as a trigger finger guide on the other side of the gun. The grips are fully ambidextrous.

General feel of the gun
Most shooters will like the feel of the LP8. Though it’s a big, heavy pistol, the grip and trigger relationship is well designed, so the gun feels smaller than it really is. It sits heavy in the hand; and as long as you don’t try to rest it on anything, it should be pretty accurate for you.

Air Venturi HaleStorm – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The .22 caliber Air Venturi HaleStorm is a good-looking PCP repeater that’s also testing very well. We may have a major winner in this rifle!

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the .22 caliber Air Venturi HaleStorm. And now I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I tested this rifle back in March of this year, it didn’t yet have a name. I just called it the Hatsan repeater, because the decision to import it hadn’t yet been made. In fact, my test was required input for that decision.

Is this a worthy air rifle? Well, we saw in the velocity test that it has a good string of useful shots at a whopping 30+ foot-pounds of energy when heavy pellets are used. So, if it’s accurate as well, then, yes, it’s worth considering.

March in Texas this year was windy. In fact it’s almost always windy here in Texas, but it was especially so this spring. All the shooting was done in the wind, pausing between gusts. That made things harder, because at no time was the wind entirely calm. Nevertheless, the rifle shot through like a champion.

I used the same Leapers 3-9×50 scope that I used on the Hammerli Pneuma, because, except for the HaleStorm’s 10-shot rotary clip and the stock, the rifles are essentially the same. I used the trick of folding the rear sight forward to mount the scope. All you have to do is remove the elevation wheel and spring underneath the sight, and the rear sight folds forward to take up half the height as before. Then, there’s adequate clearance for a 50mm objective bell.

Loading and firing
The clip-loading mechanism on the rifle is easy to use and very positive. Just remember that each time the bolt goes forward, it pushes another pellet into the barrel. I also found the circular clip itself to be very easy to load.

JSB Exacts
I tried the 15.8-grain JSB Exacts and Air Arms domes that day because both have a good reputation for long-range accuracy. I was on a tight time schedule and wanted to cut to the chase. These pellets would do it, I figured.

Ten JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes went into this 1.632″ group at 50 yards. While this group looks large, remember the wind was not cooperating that day. I was impressed.

Air Arms domes
The other pellet I tried was the 16-grain Air Arms dome that’s also made by JSB. It looks like an Exact and it performs like one, too. However, it shot to a different point of aim.

Ten Air Arms 16-grain domes went into this 1.361″ group at 50 yards.This pellet is essentially identical to the JSB Exact, but notice that it went to a completely different spot on the target with the same scope settings.

Final observations
The HaleStorm is a wonderful new PCP repeater. It’s priced as a real bargain and delivers the features shooters and hunters want–power, shot count and accuracy. It’s loud, but nowhere near as loud as a .22 rimfire rifle. You can’t use it in a suburban backyard without drawing attention to yourself, but out in the woods and fields, it will be fine. This is a reliable 10-shot repeater. The airgun world has another good PCP buy for a reasonable price.

B.B. trusts his Taurus PT1911 – Part 8Making lemonade

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

This series has gone on longer (over 2 years) than any other I’ve written for this blog, and it isn’t even about an airgun. However, the main reason I wrote this piece to begin with, was so I could share with you what I did when I bought something that turned out very differently than I supposed it would. Given my experience with airguns, it’s hard for me to be surprised by them anymore, but I thought if I could give you a window into what I do when life hands me a lemon, you might be more encouraged the next time an airgun surprises you.

To briefly summarize, I bought the Taurus PT1911 firearm because it was advertised as such a great value. I handled one at the SHOT Show, but of course couldn’t shoot one until I bought it. That’s not unlike many of you who shop online for airguns, except you may not get the chance to handle before you buy.

When I shot the gun the first time, I was devastated to see it fail to feed 8 times in the first 84 shots! I was angry, disappointed and frustrated all at the same time. I wished the person who wrote that ad about the pistol could have been there to get an earful. After time passed, though, and I calmed down, I decided to make some lemonade from my lemon, so I documented the experience for you readers.

In the beginning of this project, I took one huge fork in the road by deciding to fix the gun myself instead of sending it back to Taurus. Many readers advised me to do that, but I kept it and did the work so I would know for certain all that was wrong with the gun, but even more because in the 1970s I had been a hobby gunsmith for the 1911 pistol. I knew the design pretty well–to the point of building a match pistol from GI parts with a few aftermarket such as a barrel bushing. I installed match bushings for others, did match trigger jobs and stippled the frames of many 1911s for a fee. I felt I knew the gun well enough to take this risky step.

I’ve documented things that happened to this pistol at every step along the way so you could see how things were proceeding. And the pistol did improve once I isolated the problems, which stemmed from a faulty extractor that made the gun fail to feed. That part made the Taurus magazines, which have weak springs, faulty in this gun. But after I installed a new extractor, those magazines performed very well. However for 100 percent reliability, I rely on a special set of Wilson Combat magazines that are truly 100 percent reliable. Or at least they have been for over 600 rounds.

I also cooked up a handload that functions reliably all the time. It has slightly more energy than a .45 ACP factory load. It uses a 200-grain lead bullet instead of a 230-grain full-metal jacketed bullet and it goes faster than the heavier bullet while delivering less recoil.

Cartridge on the left is a factory-loaded 230-grain hardball .45 ACP. It launches the bullet around 830 f.p.s. On the right is my handload that pushes the 200-grain flat-nosed lead bullet out the spout around 900 f.p.s. Factory ammo costs about $85/100 right now. I reload for about $8/100. That’s a huge cost savings, plus my ammo is more accurate.

Based on the bullet I like, I bought a 6-gang bullet mold so I can cast my own lead bullets from now on. That cuts me free from everything but powder and primers which I buy in bulk. I can now shoot my pistol for about $8.00/100 instead of paying $80-90/100 for factory ammo. So, I shoot a lot more. In the approximately 1,500 rounds I’ve shot through just this pistol, the savings have amounted to no less than $1,050, or almost double what my reloading press, bullet mold and sizing press cost–combined. An airgun analogy would be buying the best pellets by the sleeve of 10 tins. One-time high cost brings huge savings downstream.

Six-gang Lee bullet mold makes bullet production go fast. After casting, the bullets are sized and lubricated in one step.

For Christmas my wife got me a Dillon reloading press that cranks out 400 rounds an hour, so now that my load is fixed and the bullet is fixed, I’m ready to crank out thousands of rounds of ammo for this gun. And the gun is ready to accept them.

All the problems I had seem to be in the past. The Taurus now seems to be as reliable as my Wilson Combat CQB I told you about in Part 4. It’s not as accurate as that custom gun, though I’ve learned how to hold it for the best accuracy it can give. And the difference between the $500 for the Taurus and $2,200 for a new Wilson buys a lot of anything!

I received some negative comments while telling this story. People seemed mad because I was speaking against a gun they either owned or thought a lot of. They didn’t understand that I was just pointing out the flaws that I encountered with my gun in the hopes that others would see them and know what could be done. For me, this was an educational journey, but some people thought I was out to crucify Taurus. Nothing of the kind! This is a success story, but we have to examine the failures to recognize it.

In fact, now that I’ve seen the project through to what I hope is a successful end I don’t mind telling you that when I need a .45, the Taurus always gets the nod. I trust the gun implicitly because I was there to see the transformation. No, I made the gun transform, so I know exactly what it can do and where it came from. Out of the box it had faults but today I would put it up against any other reliable semiauto.

So, what’s this got to do with you and airguns? Well, for starters, how about that next airgun you buy that doesn’t live up to expectations? You can trade it away or send it back if you like, but I hope this report has shown you another less-travelled path. You can take your lemon and make lemonade!

And perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate some of those old closet queens that you never shoot. Maybe with the right touches, they could become your favorite airguns. That’s the real point of this entire report.

Browning 800 Mag – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The big Browning is powerful, but hard to cock.

Well, I learned a lot about the Browning 800 Mag in this test. First, it is powerful, as the owners point out, though not as powerful as advertised. It has very nearly the power of a Beeman P1, which is considerable for a spring pistol. But there is no way my test pistol will ever shoot pellets at 700 f.p.s. without a detonation.

I also learned that the pistol is very hard to cock. My example registers 47 lbs. on my bathroom scale. While my test isn’t entirely scientific or even that accurate, I have tested all spring rifle cocking efforts on the same scale, so it is at least a standard. A Beeman Kodiak rifle (the one made in the UK) takes 50 lbs. to cock and we say it is hard, so a pistol that takes only three pounds less is formidable. I have a feeling that as the gun breaks in the effort will diminish some, but probably not below 40 lbs.

You have to use the cocking aid that slips over the muzzle to cock this pistol. That means you cannot go anywhere without it.

During the test, the pistol was dieseling in the beginning but stopped after about 15 shots. I could tell because the gun stopped smoking after each shot and the burning smell went away. After that, the velocities dropped to a lower level, where they stabilized. I wound up with two different velocity tests on the two credible lead pellets I shot, which I’ll cover with you.

Gamo Match
On the first velocity test, the 7.5-grain Gamo Match pellets averaged 546 f.p.s. with a spread from 529 to 564. But on the second try, after the dieseling stopped, the average was 450 f.p.s., with a spread from 412 to 469. Notice that the spread of the second string is still quite large, so there’s some dieseling still going on. I would expect the average to decrease a little more as the gun breaks in, but I don’t think it will drop below 420 f.p.s. with this pellet.

RWS Basic
The .177 caliber RWS Basic is a 7-grain pellet like the Hobby but made to sell for a little less. In velocity tests, I use them interchangeably with Hobbys. On the first test they averaged 506 f.p.s. and ranged from 484 f.p.s. to 543 f.p.s. This was the string that alerted me to the end of the dieseling, so I ran it again and got an average of 455 f.p.s. with a spread from 434 to 471. Like the Gamo Match, I think there’s still some dieseling going on and I expect the average to drop a little with this pellet, as well.

Gamo Raptors
I didn’t have any of the RWS Hyper MAX lead-free pellets, so I used Gamo Raptors instead. They didn’t do well in this gun. The average was 456 f.p.s., with a spread from 347 to 510. Some Raptors fit the bore extremely tight while others dropped in loose, so the uniformity was an issue. The tight ones also scored the lowest velocity.

The pistol gets high marks from owners for build quality. Many of them position it against the RWS LP8 Magnum, which sells for $140 more. They like its power but many note the heavy cocking effort I mentioned. Most of them find it to be accurate, so that should prove interesting.

Well, that’s it for velocity. Next stop will be accuracy.

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Air Arms TX200 air rifle

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