Archive for August 2009
by B.B. Pelletier
Charging the pistol
The way the pistol is pumped is simple. The rod is pulled out until it stops, then pushed back in to force air into the reservoir. Many, many front-pumpers will have problems with their inlet valves, causing the pump rod to push back out as the air slowly releases. With this kind of fault, the gun will eventually leak down to nothing.
Others will have too much space between the end of the pump head and the opening of the inlet valve. This traps high-pressure air between the head and the opening. The air cannot enter the valve because the pump head has gone as far as it will go. The pressure of the trapped air is not as high as the air inside the reservoir, so it sits outside the inlet valve. When pressure on the pump rod is relaxed, the trapped air will push the pump rod back out. Because the internal pressure in the reservoir keeps building with every pump stroke, the pressure level of the trapped air continues to mount, as well, pushing the pump rod back out further each time. A little bit of rod rebound isn’t bad, but if it comes more than halfway out, your gun probably needs service. When the inlet valve is working correctly, the rod stays all the way down (or in) after each pump stroke.
Our subject gun, which is in very good operating condition, will hold the rod down if a certain procedure is followed. After two or more pumps, the rod starts to climb back out. I just push it back in with the heel of my hand, and it stays down the second time. I don’t pull it out all the way before doing this; just press the rod back against the small amount of residual air that’s pushing it out, and it goes in and stays. You can hear the air entering the inlet valve on this gun. Maybe that’s typical of the performance of a new gun, too; I don’t know.
The end of the rod is shaped like a mushroom to give a broad surface against which to push. I like to use something solid against the rod end, with the floor or a stout table being ideal. Folks with post-and-beam barns are blessed with unlimited flat surfaces to push against. Let’s not use mother’s dining room table, though, as the mushroom will shatter the finish and compress the wood fibers rather quickly. And stay off modern countertops with their low friction, because the mushroom can’t find a surface to grab, allowing it to slip and damage the gun.
Before pumping a gun, cock it and put on the crossbolt safety. Remember to keep your fingers out of the triggerguard as you pump. Grasp the gun in your shooting hand and put the heel of your other hand against the receiver cap for extra support. Don’t rely on just the pistol grip to support the gun. The screws may hold fine for a while, but eventually they’re going to elongate the holes through the brass tubing of the receiver. If you’re pumping a rifle, the same procedures hold true–don’t just push on the end of the wooden butt.
This pistol is not a magnum, and no amount of pumping will turn it into one. All you’ll do if you overpump a gun is ensure an earlier trip to the overhaul shop. About five strokes is the most I ever put in, and three is all it takes for most shooting. If you also own a Benjamin underlever pump, you will notice that the front-pumper has a much longer stroke than the underlever. You can pressurize the front-pumper in half the number of strokes or less. With rifles, this is even more evident.
You can get pretty good accuracy from an old Benjamin pistol, if you slow down and take the time to shoot the gun as the manufacturer intended. “Pretty good” means tin-can-plinking accuracy. These guns were made at a time when the pace of things moved slower than it does today, and their sedate method of charging reflects that. Treat them as the fine single-shot handguns they are, and the reward will be shots you can be proud of. Just remember, they aren’t CO2 pistols–you’ll have to invest some sweat to keep them going. But they can be okay if you do your part.
The smoothbores are not as accurate as the guns with rifled barrels, of course. Benjamin used to say in their advertising that their pellet guns were good for one-inch groups at 30 feet, while their BB guns would shoot into about two inches. While testing the gun, I found that it would group in about two inches at that distance, as long as good-fitting BBs were used. I found the slightly large 0.174″ lead balls sold as 4.4mm round balls worked best. Regular steel BBs range in size from 0.171″ to 0.173″ and do not group as well. They went into three- to four-inch groups.
As an experiment, I also tried the gun with 4.5mm Eley Wasp pellets, which are quite similar in shape to the original Benjamin High Compression pellets from the same era as the gun. The Eleys did not shoot reliably, perhaps because they are not lubricated like the early Benjamin pellets. Several times, the pellet would not exit the barrel, even with five pumps.
The trigger is the simplest sort of hammer/sear arrangement. It’s rugged and reliable, but it will never be confused with a target trigger. There’s plenty of travel and creep. Behind it, the crossbolt safety passes through the frame. It operates in the conventional way, convenient for right-handed shooters and backwards for southpaws. A spring-loaded ball detent retains the safety in whatever position it was last placed.
The bolt is also conventional. Rotate the bolt knob counterclockwise to unlock it, then pull straight back to cock the hammer, and withdraw the bolt probe to allow a pellet or BB to be loaded. Since our subject pistol is a smoothbore, it’s meant to shoot BBs, darts or pellets. The bolt probe is hollow, where there would be a solid rod with a rounded tip on a rifled gun.
Although Benjamin sold copper-plated steel BBs for their guns, I’m conservative about shooting anything steel in a brass bore. I try to use lead shot instead. You can buy Gamo or Beeman round balls in .177 caliber, and they function fine in guns like these. A BB is pressed into the hollow opening of the bolt probe, which allows the muzzle to be depressed below level and the BB will not roll out. Incidentally, if you’re shooting a model 150 or 160 BB repeater, you have no choice but to shoot steel shot, as those guns are designed to work with it.
Darts are made of steel, but their design prevents the metal from touching the sides of the bore. Shoot them on low power only and always shoot them into a regulation dart board to prevent penetration and distortion. All it takes is one pull with pliers and a dart is ruined forever.
Accuracy with pellets isn’t as good in smoothbores as it is in guns that are rifled, but it is adequate. The diabolo shape of the pellet helps stabilize it in flight without the spin that rifling would impart.
by B.B. Pelletier
While I was visiting Pyramyd Air earlier this week, I happened to speak to Ariel, customer sales and service manager, about the problem of pellet supply they sometimes have. You see, Pyramyd Air ships hundreds of tins of pellets every week and sometimes the manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand. Often it is JSB that’s backordered, but this time it was Beeman.
“No problem,” I told her. “H&N makes many of Beeman’s pellets. Just recommend a substitute H&N pellet.”
She tried that already, but the customer wanted only Beeman pellets.
Most of us are aware that Beeman manufactures nothing. They are a distributor who has manufacturers make things they can sell under their own name. This is a pretty common business practice–especially these days, with China acting as the “shop” for so many American companies. Most people are aware of this practice, but they still think there might be something in the purchasing specification that will make this company’s product different than the original manufacturer’s product, even though they’re nominally identical. Sometimes that’s true, sometimes it’s not. Let’s start with Beeman and let’s talk pellets.
Beeman Kodiak pellets are identical to H&N Baracuda pellets. And there have been times when other airgun companies also re-branded Baracudas. Webley, for instance, at one time sold their Baracudas as Webley Magnum pellets. The reason I’m so sure they are all Baracudas is because the Baracuda is one of the finest heavy pellets on the market. A company would be insane to screw with that success as long as they can get H&N to put their label on the tin, which they apparently can in the case of Baracudas.
I’ve used Baracudas under all three names and gotten identical results. So, I shop for my Baracudas by whoever has the best price. Or, as is the case at present, by whoever has them in stock. If there are no Beeman Kodiaks available, I’m going to use H&N Baracudas without a second thought. Or Webley Magnums, during the time they were offered. Pyramyd Air currently does not stock H&N Baracudas in .177 and .22 calibers, but this market is always in flux.
Let’s look at another one. How about Beeman H&N Match? Well, there you go! Beeman actually includes the H&N name on the tin with their own. So there’s no doubt who makes them. But, H&N Finale Match pellets come in different weights, don’t they? And Beeman H&N Match pellets come in only one weight. The solution, of course, is to match up the Beeman pellets with the H&N Finale Match whose weight comes closest. In .177, that would be the heavy one, whose 8.1 grains is close enough to Beeman’s pellet weight of 8.09 grains that we can be pretty certain they’re the same.
There are some Beeman pellets for which there are no H&N equivalents imported into the U.S. The Beeman Crow Magnum, for example is not brought into this country as an H&N pellet. It may be available elsewhere in the world under the H&N name or Beeman may have an agreement with H&N that the design is theirs, alone. In the latter case, you either have to buy Beeman or do without.
Let’s turn that around the other way. Are there H&N pellets for which Beeman does not have an equivalent? Yes, there are. I’ve already mentioned the light H&N Finale Match, but there are others. They show up from time to time, but unless there’s a continuing demand they’ll go away without any fanfare. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me with other brands labeled with airgun manufacturers’ labels, rather than pellet makers’ labels.
Want some more? Okay, here’s a helpful one. Any active U.S. airgunner knows the supply of JSB pellets is finite and limited. So, what if there were pellets under other names that were actually the JSBs we all want. Well, in some cases, there are! Take the .177 JSB Exact that weighs 8.4 grains. It’s the same as the Air Arms Diabolo Field pellet that weighs 8.44 grains. It’s also sold elsewhere as a BSA Wolverine pellet. Same weight, same shape, same pellet–different names. Good to know if it’s a pellet you really like and the supply of one brand dries up.
What ELSE do we know from this?
Okay, this is simplistic, but if you don’t know it, it’s worth hearing. If a company makes several good pellets, like JSB and H&N, they probably make most or even all of their pellets to the same standard So, if you’ve grown to trust Beeman brand pellets and are now learning for the first time that they’re mostly H&N pellets, it’s probably a safe bet that most or even all H&N pellets are equally good. The same could be said of JSB pellets and the other labels we know they’re sold under. It isn’t Air Arms’ name, as respected as it is in the airgun world, on the outside of the tin that makes the pellets inside good. It’s the fact that JSB makes them.
Just like Winchester didn’t make the air rifles that carried its name, neither do Air Arms and BSA make the pellets they sell. Winchester arranged for Diana to make their air rifles, and you can’t do any better than that. Just as you can’t do much better than JSB or H&N for pellets.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s blog comes from an article I originally wrote for Airgun Revue #4.
Today’s airguns are so refined that they make the models I grew up with look ancient by comparison. When I was a boy in the 1950s, airguns were either BB guns or pneumatic pellet guns–there were no others to choose from. Although Crosman bulk-fill guns had been around for awhile, they weren’t well known in my neck of the woods. If they had been, this story might be very different. I grew up with Benjamins in rural Ohio. Both rifles and pistols were around, but my father only had a pistol, so that became my first exposure to airgunning.
His was one of the first–a front-pump pistol. It isn’t the first airgun to have a pump mechanism built into the front; that credit probably goes to Giffard, or to someone else from Europe in the last century. But Benjamin gets the recognition of having built more of them than anyone else, so if you think about them today, they’re the ones who come to mind.
Let’s set the record straight–it’s a Benjamin, not a Benjamin Franklin. When I was a boy, everyone seemed to know that; but over the years, a completely new crop of collectors and dealers has sprung up. They insist on using both names because they happen to appear on the side of the guns. Maybe, back when the guns all came in boxes and the pellets were still sold under that name, it was easier to remember. Just Benjamin.
I had my father’s Benjamin 107 pistol. Although I now know it to be a fine air pistol, at the time I didn’t even consider it to be real. It was just too hard for a little boy to operate. Even today, the front pump mechanism can be a chore for an adult. It has the least mechanical advantage of any pneumatic airgun, which you may safely read as “none.”
The pistol is a metal and wood airgun with a substantial but compact heft–not unlike a Colt Woodsman of the same era. It was contemporary with the last of the Quackenbush long guns and has that same look of substance and quality. Although we’re living in a golden age of airgun development right now, the Benjamin and other guns like it made the earlier decades of this century a very fine time to be alive, too.
According to the chronology given to us by collector Fred Liady, the pistol models 100 (.177, smoothbore), 102 (.22, rifled) and 107 (.177, rifled) were all introduced in 1935. These were Benjamin’s first air pistols. I remember my father’s pistol came in a green cardboard box that was colored the same as the pellet tins, but advanced collectors tell me that the plain brown box was the earliest. You’ll still find many of them in their boxes because even the box looks retro enough for people to recognize it as quality.
The rifles predated the pistols by several decades, with the first–designated on Fred’s list as the Benjamin model A–being made around 1898. Actually, that first one was the St. Louis Air Rifle. The date on the left side of the stock reads “Pat. June 20 1899,” so the 1898 date may be taken with a grain of salt.
The B model, supposedly first made in 1900, was actually the second version of the St. Louis Air Rifle, and I’m sorry to say I have only seen one picture of this gun–in Smith’s Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World. The model D, first produced in 1910, is the earliest Benjamin rifle (using the Benjamin name) that is seen in any great quantity. That rifle came 25 years before the first pistol–a remarkable stretch of time, when you think about it.
Benjamin rifles and pistols of the vintage of our subject gun came with two finishes on top of solid brass. The top finish was a fragile layer of black nickel on top of a much tougher coat of silver nickel. The black usually wears off pretty quick, although there are guns with lots of it still clinging. There may have been small lot-to-lot differences in the application of the finish, or it just might be due to how much the individual guns have been handled over time. As incredible as it sounds, the example shown above was acquired in 1997 and has much more original black finish than my father’s almost-identical gun had in 1955!
The silver finish is much more permanent, to the point that many believe it to be the only original finish on the gun. Often, when I see an older Benjamin advertised with 60 percent of its finish, I ask the seller whether all the silver is still there. They often refer to just the silver nickel because they believe it to be the top finish of the gun; so it pays to ask. Many people are not aware that the black finish was ever present. Obviously, 60 percent silver nickel with no black showing equals 30 percent of the whole original finish. It makes an interesting bargaining position, if you want to get a price adjustment.
Don’t be surprised to see some of the base metal peeking through on an otherwise good-looking gun. It’s not at all strange to see brass showing on the sharp edges, silver on most of the smooth surfaces and some black in the corners and under the barrel, where it has been protected. Our subject pistol, a model 100 smoothbore, is showing a little brass on the edges of the end cap, a condition that tells me the owner(s) were pumping it correctly. Unlike fine cameras, a little brassing isn’t such a fatal flaw on a Benjamin pistol or rifle, although there are plenty of guns showing none at all.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll test the Hammerli Razor for velocity. It’s advertised to get 820 f.p.s. in .22 caliber, so we’ll see what it can do.
The rifle cocks smoothly, though the effort builds very sharply at the end of the cocking stroke. Be prepared for that. The firing cycle is smooth and almost without vibration. I noticed a big jump forward when the gun fired, so the BKL 260 mount I’m going to try will be getting an acid test.
The first shot fired was a detonation, as I told you in part one, but that was the only one I saw. There were none during the velocity testing. However, the smell was unmistakable! The rifle is dieseling quite noticeably.
The first pellet I tested was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. Its weight is perfect for this power range. You’ll remember that I’d hoped for something in the 720-750 f.p.s. range based on the advertising. What I got was an average of 695 f.p.s., so it’s a little slow. The spread was from 668 to 708, which is a broad 40 f.p.s. That’s probably due to dieseling. The average muzzle energy is 15.34 foot-pounds.
Next, I tried RWS Superpoints for no reason other than I seldom test them. They work great in mid-powered taploaders, and I wondered how they would do in the Razor. Surprisingly, this 14.5-grain pure lead pellet averaged 696 f.ps. The spread went from 690 to 701, which is a super-tight 11 f.p.s. Apparently, this powerplant loves the Superpoint. Of course, all bets are off until we know what the barrel thinks. At this velocity, the average muzzle energy is 15.6 foot-pounds.
The 11.9-grain RWS Hobby pellet is a pure lead pellet that often gives the fastest velocities for a particular airgun. With this Razor, it averaged 762 f.p.s. The spread went from 756 to 770, a fairly tight 14 foot-second variation. The average velocity gives an average 15.35 foot-pounds.
The two-stage trigger was set to release at 5.5 lbs.–a little stiff for a nice sporter. Fortunately, it’s adjustable, so I went to work. The Crosman NPSS report taught me to always try the adjustment. There are no instructions for trigger adjustment in the owner’s manual, so I figured out the three screws and will give you the instructions here. Wear safety goggles when you shoot the rifle while adjusting the trigger, as you’ll be very close to a pellet trap.
First, remove the triggerguard to gain access to all three adjustment screws. I’ll number the screws from the trigger blade out, one, two and the larger screw farthest away from the blade is three.
Screw No. 1 adjusts the sear contact. Screwing in (clockwise) decreases contact–and out increases contact. Screw No. 2 adjusts the length of stage one. Screwing in decreases the first stage–and out increases it. It’s affected by the adjustment of screw No. 1, so adjust the sear contact first, then adjust the length of the first stage. Screw No. 3 adjusts the tension of the trigger-return spring. Out lightens it–and in makes it heavier. This should be the last screw you adjust.
You’ll be frequently cocking and firing the gun with the triggerguard off as you adjust the trigger, so hold down the back of the action in the stock when you cock the gun. With 15 minutes of fiddling, I was able to get a fine, crisp trigger-pull of 2 lbs., 12 oz. Remember, I had no instructions to follow.
Before anyone asks, I did try to shim the breech seal, which sits a mite low, but the groove is cut too shallow to get a shim in. Perhaps, a thin piece of paper would work. Maybe, I’ll try again, though I have to say that the rifle is shooting fine right now.
At the finish of the second report, I’m even more in love with this rifle because of that great trigger!
by B.B. Pelletier
In early 2007, I made a presentation to the Crosman Corporation that resulted in several significant things. The first was the development and production of the rifle that became the Benjamin Discovery. The second was Crosman’s commitment to the foundation of a new corporate section dedicated to the production of precharged pneumatic airguns.
The third thing that happened sounded like an afterthought to me at the time. After my presentation, in which I assured Crosman that they had the perfect entry into PCPs with the project they were about to undertake, Production Manager Ed Schultz, himself an airgunner, asked me privately if I thought this new technology could be applied to their target rifle, the Challenger 2000. He wondered what I thought of a PCP Challenger, perhaps fitted with a Lothar Walther barrel.
At the time, it seemed to me like Ralph Maccio, the Karate Kid, was asking if he might someday be able to take on Jet Li in a one-on-one match. However, as there was nothing to prevent it from happening, I told him I thought it was a natural and should be folded into their future plans. Little did I realize at the time that he was dead-serious. Wax on, wax off!
Telling this story now sounds like old news, because the whole world knows about the Discovery and the Marauder that followed it. And we have been seeing this very target rifle, the Crosman Challenger 2009, in news flashes throughout 2009. But now that I’m holding one in my hands I feel like a veteran returning to Omaha Beach 50 years later. We all know how things turned out, but I was THERE when it happened! Ed Schultz wasn’t daydreaming. He was envisioning the future–a future that has finally arrived.
The original Challenger 2000 was always supposed to be a challenger to the highly successful Daisy Avanti 853, the rifle that has dominated youth 10-meter competition for several decades. It had features that made it better than the Daisy, too. It was easier to cock and to load, which meant a lot when the kids competed in the prone position. It had a more ergonomic stock. And I felt that it had a better trigger.
On the minus side, the Challenger was never as accurate as the Daisy. Accuracy being what it is to competition, this shortcoming was the kiss of death for a target rifle–even for one that competed on the basis of price. The Challenger also operated on CO2, which wasn’t a liability, but was a concern for some coaches. The shooters stayed away in droves.
Crosman Challenger 2009
This new model is a precharged pneumatic that also has the possibility of operating on bulk CO2. Yes, it is a true Dual Fuel airgun, and I want to set the record straight right now. Ed Schultz invented the Dual Fuel concept, as far as I know. I know that I did not include it in my initial presentation to Crosman. He surprised me with it at our second meeting, where he showed me the first prototype of the Discovery. He was surprised that I had been right about a 2000 psi air charge being just as powerful as 3,000 psi, and I was blown away by his idea for dual-fuel operation.
The trigger is the same one I have raved about in the Marauder. And you’ve probably read enough reviews of this trigger from owners and other sources by now that you know it’s a winner.
The barrel is a Lothar Walther. I believe Crosman could put their own barrel on the rifle, because I see no difference in accuracy, but target shooters do not follow the world of sporting airguns. They’re a tough bunch to please, and if they need that pedigree, it’s wise to let them have it. I’m going to shoot this rifle at 10 meters and let the chips fall where they may–though I have a pretty good idea of where that will be.
The stock is very ergonomic for a Sporter Class rifle. The original Challenger 2000 was also ergonomic. The Daisy 853, in comparison, is a two-by-four.
This rifle cocks easily. I knew that from testing the Challenger 2000, however, shooters who have never seen one of those are going to embrace the new rifle.
The rifle weighs 7.3 lbs. That’s just two tenths under the maximum permitted in the Sporter Class. It’s as if Crosman knew exactly what they were doing!
The rifle I’m testing comes with target sights. But a version of the same gun can be had without any sights. I DO NOT want to hear any sob stories from people who buy it without sights and then complain about the lack. That’s why the price is lower, and it’s done for shooters who already have sights they like. The sights come with a complete set of inserts, and the aperture insert is already installed.
The rifle does not come with a fill device. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting a Benjamin pump with this one. That’s how many top competitors fill their rifles, so no discussion about heartbeats after pumping. You fill to only 2,000 psi, which is a walk in the park for a healthy adult. The intake fixture is a male Foster fitting, which the pump is set up to accept.
We’re living in some very strange times. When AirForce started showing their Edge target rifle to the NRA and the CMP, they met a wall of resistance. The arguments were many and varied, but they seemed to boil down to one thing, “It’s not a Daisy 853!” Now, Crosman is bearding the same giant. I’m old enough to remember in the 1960s when race fans were just as concerned about the new Indy-car designs because they weren’t Offenhausers. Heck, I was one of the Luddites in that controversy! Change is a scary thing. But it’s inevitable, and today its name is the Crosman Challenger 2009.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, I’m going to Pyramyd Air today and won’t be back until Friday. I’d like to ask the old-timers to watch the blog and help the new folks. Thanks.
I’m testing the Hammerli Razor on a request from at least one reader. I must have balked at the idea because I already reviewed the TF Contender 89 in .177, a derivative of the Chinese AR1000. However, this Hammerli is made in Spain. So, this is a brand new rifle to me. I see the family resemblance to the AR1000, but coming out of Spain, this must be from the line of the sire. How strange to have more familiarity with the copy than the original. This is the original, which Vince once said was probably related to the Norica GS1000.
The Razor is a large breakbarrel. It weighs 7.5 lbs. and is 45.5 inches long. That’s lighter (though slightly longer) than a Beeman R1, but still larger and heavier than an R9. It has a ball-bearing detent holding the barrel closed, so you don’t have to karate-chop the muzzle to start breaking the barrel for cocking and loading.
The finish is impeccable! The bluing is deep and even, and the woodwork is as good as the best that Europe offers on a production gun, with the possible exception of the Air Arms TX200. The metal is not polished to a high shine like a TX, but rather to a more satin finish like the RWS Diana guns.
New cleaning product
Birchwood Casey’s Barricade is a rust preventative that smells a lot like their Sheath that I’ve used for years. It says no harm to synthetics, so I’m testing it on airguns. It cleans oil and grease very well and leaves a protective film that stands up to prolonged salt spray. Pyramyd Air doesn’t carry it, yet. If I find that it works well on airguns, I’ll recommend that they stock it. It cleaned the Razor quickly and left a nice shine.
Have you noticed that I haven’t yet fired a shot? I’m gushing all over the gun, and the test hasn’t begun. What does that tell you about the fit and finish of the rifle?
The trigger, triggerguard, end cap and the two screw covers of the forearm screws that look like spanner heads are plastic. Other than that, the rest of the gun is metal and wood.
Both front and rear sights are fiberoptic, but the light is very subdued, so they don’t get in the way of precise aiming. The front red dot is all but invisible and acts just like a metal bead. It lights up only in strong daylight.
The rear sight is all-metal and has scales for both windage and elevation adjustments. This is the kind of quality rear sight some shooters will love, because it really works. Of course, there’s an 11mm dovetail and a proper scope stop at the back of the rail, so scope users are properly set up. I plan on doing something a bit different with this rifle–at least at first. I plan to test a new BKL mount to see whether it can hold its position with clamping force, alone. Back when I wrote The Airgun Letter, the BKL mounts I tested all failed the holding test, but the six-screw model 260 was not yet available and none of the mounts were being made on modern CNC machinery. You may be interested in following this test.
I got the rifle in .22 caliber, because at this power level it is better-suited than .177. The max velocity advertised is 820 f.p.s., and of course that’s the highest velocity with the lightest pellets, so I’m hoping to get Crosman Premiers running in the 720-750 f.p.s. region. That would make the power equivalent to the stock Beeman R1.
The cocking effort measures 33 lbs., so this rifle is for adults. I fired one shot and had a detonation, but the action feels smooth and solid. I’ll know more after velocity testing.
The bottom line is that this is a rifle worth considering. We’ll have some fun with it.
by B.B. Pelletier
Haenel’s 303-8 Super is a large breakbarrel target rifle from East Germany.
A funny thing happened during the chronographing test. I discovered the model number written on the gun! It took the diffuse light of my reflected overhead chronograph lighting to see it, but it’s there, ahead of the Haenel name at the rear of the spring cylinder. So, then I sprayed all the metal parts with Ballistol and started rubbing the rust off and discovered the caliber stamped into the barrel and the serial number stamped into the left side of the base block. My rifle is marked normally after all.
Under the right light, the other stampings on the gun became clear.
Then it hit me! While reading the history of the Rolliflex camera, I read an anecdote about an owner who thought his camera’s focus was defective, because all his pictures were out of focus. He sent the camera to Rollei for repairs but they found nothing wrong. They returned the camera with a note to the owner to visit his optometrist. Sure enough, he needed a new prescription. He was focusing the camera to adjust for his eyes, which made the images turn out blurry.
Apparently, I’ve reached the same stage, because when I put on a magnifying hood and examined the rifle carefully, all the markings were visible. So, I’m sorry if I misled you that the rifle had no markings. The model reads “303-Super,” so the 303-8 Super that a reader had suggested must be a later version of the same rifle. I’m going to leave the title alone, because a search on either title will find this report.
Someone suggested the front sight is mounted backwards. If I reverse it, it no longer sticks out in front of the muzzle, so that’s what I did. It does look more correct that way.
Front sight looks better turned around.
Speaking of sights, I failed to mention that the rear sight has six different diameters of apertures that allow the shooter to adjust for lighting conditions. Go with the smallest aperture that you can see with and keep both eyes open while sighting. If you don’t, the aperture will appear to close partially. I covered that in a report a few months ago.
Okay, let’s get to shooting. You’ll remember that the rifle had its piston seal oiled a week before, so it was still fresh and doing its job. The breech seal was also oiled at the same time.
The first pellet tested was the RWS Basic. They fit the breech very loosely. They actually fell into the breech by about 1/16″ on average. From my experience, when pellets do that, they’re generally slower, though I tested the gun with tighter-fitting pellets and found that wasn’t the case. The Basics averaged 643 f.p.s., with a range from 632 to 656. That’s 6.43 foot-pounds, which is 8.72 joules. So, this rifle is not a 7.5-joule gun.
RWS Meisterkugeln pellets were next, and they surprised me with an average velocity of 657 f.p.s. Then I read the weight of these Meisters and discovered they weigh only 7 grains, like the Basics, so the higher velocity is no surprise. The spread was from 627 to 665 f.p.s., but the 627 was an anomaly. The next-slowest shot went 657 f.p.s., which was the average. And three of these pellets dropped into the breech 1/8″, while all the rest dropped in 1/16″.
Crosman Premier 7.9 grains
The last pellet I tested were Crosman Premier 7.9 grain pellets. They didn’t drop into the breech, but remained flush with the end of the barrel. They averaged 584 f.p.s., with a range from 575 to 592.
I did try a couple other pellets just to see if pure lead pellets that fit the breech tighter would be significantly faster, but none were. Eley Wasps that weigh 7.9 grains averaged about 580 f.p.s. and 7.6-grain Chinese blue label target pellets averaged about 615 f.p.s.
Before anyone asks me to modify this rifle to be more powerful, let me say that’s not one of my goals. I don’t need more power from a target rifle. What I need is accuracy, and we’ll see how much this one has in the next report.
It would seem from the power seen here that my rifle is in pretty good health. Though rust is over all the metal, underneath the gun seems to be in pretty good shape. What we have here is a rifle that’s the equivalent of the HW55 in general performance and even features. Of course, the accuracy test will show how close it comes in that all-important department.