Archive for October 2009
by B.B. Pelletier
I wanted to title this report Americana, because that’s what it really is. But when someone on the internet wants to research their gun, the model is the only thing they are interested in. Make no mistake, though–the Healthways Plainsman is Americana, as much as Dad’s Root Beer and Buster Brown shoes.
Unlike the Daisy Red Ryder that everyone knows by name, the Healthways Plainsman is the BB pistol that almost everybody knows on sight, without knowing what it is. It’s about as ubiquitous as the Marksman 1010 BB pistol, but most of you may have to think about it for awhile. And showing you a period ad may stimulate your memories.
A Plainsman ad from 1965. They called the gun semiautomatic because you just keep pulling the trigger to fire. Actually it’s double-action.
I DID NOT go to Roanoke to buy a Plainsman! In fact, I have assiduously avoided the Plainsman for the past 20 years. Before that, I wasn’t a writer, so my avoidance was private and didn’t count. I have blogged Chinese spring guns. I have blogged Marksman BB pistols. I have even blogged Wamo cap-firing BB guns that have less power than thrown BBs. So, why was I avoiding the Plainsman? No good reason. I just was.
In fact, this is a great little BB gun that I actually shot in my youth. My favorite relative was Uncle Don. He was a man’s man. Whenever we got together, he got out his guns and let me shoot. One summer I spent a couple weeks with him and Aunt Gert on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. There, he introduced me to his Plainsman. It shot fast and hard–two things a 12-year-old boy likes. I went through so much of his CO2 that he had to put the brakes on and get me fishing to slow me down.
But I never owned one of these pistols myself; and when the time came to get airguns, I went other ways. In this report, I want to discover what I missed–right along with you.
I stumbled across this pistol on Mike Ahuna’s table at the Roanoke airgun show last weekend. It was in the box and included an owner’s manual, sales receipt (without the year of sale, unfortunately) and several other papers associated with both the gun and with Numrich Arms (the former name of Gun Parts Corporation), where it was sold. I’ve seen plenty of other boxed Plainsmans–there was even one at this show–but the condition of this box and papers caught my attention. The gun sang to me!
The Plainsman box looks like a big smile to me. It looks happy, and it makes me feel happy to look at it.
I’ve found ads for the Plainsman pistol as early as 1960 and as late as 1969. With just a quick check, let’s assume I missed some and extend that by a couple years on both ends. The owner’s manual that came with the gun is dated 1957, which may be the first year of release. The earliest price I’ve seen in 1960 is $14.95.
On the late end of the run, there would have been new-old-stock guns for sale for several years after they stopped making them, so they no doubt were sold well into the 1970s. But companies like Daisy were putting pressure on the market with newer guns made of plastic and having the same features and more modern profiles. The final price I saw in 1969 was $18.95.
Pat Pending must have been a prolific airgun designer, because we see his name on so many guns from the 1950s and ’60s. Seriously, that was a dodge used by many companies to avoid the costly fees and time spent in getting patents. Many of the guns that say Pat. Pending have nothing patentable in them. I’m not saying that’s the case for the Plainsman, but I sure am hinting at it!
The pistol is all metal with plastic grips. It resembles a Colt Woodsman in shape, though its grip is larger than a Woodsman grip. The trigger works with or without CO2 in the gun and has a smooth, light two-stage pull, though stage two is somewhat long. The gun weighs 29.3 oz. The smoothbore barrel is six inches long.
Plainsman on top and Colt Woodsman on the bottom. The Plainsman is a little beefier than the firearm.
The Plainsman uses 8-gram CO2 cartridges instead of the 12-gram cartridges of today. In its day, more guns used the smaller cartridge, so it didn’t seem so strange. Today, however, you can buy these vintage small cartridges here at Pyramyd Air, so there’s no reason not to shoot your vintage gun.
The Plainsman comes with adjustable power. There are three power settings. A coin-operated screw at the bottom of the grip selects each setting, and the detents are stiff enough that there’s no question where you are. Healthways didn’t use velocity figures for their gun because at this time nobody had access to a chronograph. So, they stated power by what a BB would do to a tin can. Remember, when this gun was made, tin cans were actually made of steel. Don’t confuse them with the soft soda cans of today. Think more of a stout soup can or a coffee can. On low power, where you got up to 100 shots, a BB would dent one side of a can at 15 feet. On medium power, you got 55 shots and the BB would deeply dent or pierce one side of a tin can at 15 feet. On high power, you got about 45 shots, and a BB would almost go through both sides of a tin coffee can at 15 feet.
Turn the screw at the top to the left (located at the bottom rear of the pistol grip) with a coin to increase power. There are three settings.
Healthways claimed an accuracy of 50 shots through a one-inch group (they say pattern in the manual) at 25 feet. That seems reasonable, and places it among the most accurate BB guns. I’ve seen accuracy like that from the Umarex Makarov, so I know it’s possible.
The barrel is a thin steel tube, but it’s encased in a metal housing that looks more substantial. In fact, everything about this gun looks and feels substantial.
When I researched this pistol, I learned that Healthways put out many different models. This pistol, for example, has a rifled counterpart that looks the same but uses nickelplated lead balls for ammo. And there’s a single-action western model I admit to never having seen before, though I might have seen one and thought it was something else. It, too, had a rifled-barrel counterpart that shot lead balls. Finally, there’s the Topscore spring-piston model that’s fairly well-known, though I admit that I never shot one.
Healthways also offered this Western-style revolver at the same time as the Plainsman.
Lift this gate and drop 100 BBs into the gun. Feeding is handled by the mechanism inside.
by B.B. Pelletier
Well, I’m back, and today I’ll resume testing the Crosman 114, but before I do I must comment on how relaxed I was at this year’s Roanoke show. Taking three days to drive there and three to drive back made all the difference in the world. I got home without being exhausted. Maybe this gallbladder diet is beginning to work its magic.
Crosman’s 114 is what little boys’ dreams are made of. Read this report to learn just how true that is!
I know I told you the story of the man at the show who discovered that he wasn’t alone in owning a Crosman 114. I spoke to him at the Roanoke show, and, if I was persuasive enough, he is now reading this blog. I hope so, because the look in his eye when he discovered the world of airguns was priceless. I’ve been in the same position as he was several times, and I know what a joy it can be to finally connect with the right people over an area of common interest. So, 114 Man, I hope you’re now with us. This is your gun.
I also must comment that I didn’t see a 114 or a 113 at Roanoke this year. There might have been one, or even more than one, but I was looking and didn’t see any.
What do we know about the 114?
We know the gun runs on CO2, and I will tell you now that it has a 22-inch, .22-caliber brass barrel. So, expect 14.3-grain Crosman Premiers to go in the range of 575 f.p.s. to 610 f.p.s., if the rifle has a factory tune. That would be at 70 deg., F. My office temp was 80 degrees when I did the velocity test for you, so I’ll get right to the Premiers.
I knew from the first shot that something was wrong with the rifle. There was a tremendous outgassing at the breech every time the rifle fired–something these rifles and pistols never do when they’re working right. The blast of gas told me the gun has a serious leak in the firing system, which was evident in two different ways as I shot the Crosman Premier pellets. First, the average velocity was only 536 f.p.s.–well below what I expected to see. Second, the velocity dropped with almost every shot–something that does not happen with CO2 at 80 degrees. Look at the shot string below:
This isn’t typical of a filled CO2 gun that gets 70 shots per fill. Something’s wrong, and the blast of gas coming from around the action is a clear indication that repairs are in order.
I started to shoot a string of RWS Superpoints, but stopped after just four shots. Look at the velocity:
If this were a PCP, I would think it had dropped off the power curve, but CO2 guns don’t drop off like this until the end, when their liquid runs out. That should be after at least 50 good shots, if not more. Certainly not after the first five!
So, my 114 needs some attention. Maybe if it were made modular, like the 2260, I might even tackle the repairs myself, but it’s not. It’s all integrated into a whole, so I think I will send it off to a repair station. Only the metal action has to go, so the package can be small and light. I just have to exhaust all the CO2 before I pack it.
I could check accuracy now, but with the wide velocity variation, I don’t think we would be doing the rifle any favors. I know this hasn’t gone the normal way of a blog report, but sometimes this is what happens–especially with vintage airguns. We’ll stay on top of it and see how it comes out on the other side.
by B.B. Pelletier
Just a reminder that the “Shooting the breeze” series is meant as humor. I made up everything just to entertain you. All names, businesses and locations are fictitious. Enjoy!
The Billabong Air Gun Company announced today a departure from wasteful manufacturing practices of the past. After years-long search for a less costly material to replace the expensive synthetics and plastics now used in airguns, the company believes they have found at least a partial answer in paper. That’s right–paper!
Billabong production engineers propose to begin manufacture of a brand new design of CO2 rifle targeted at their brisk discount store trade. Many of the structural components will be made from a proprietary paper-based product that company researches say is as strong and workable as plastic. Parts like valve bodies and receivers, once made of costly resin-based materials, can now be fabricated from what is essentially a modern derivative of that old grade-school favorite–paper mache. Where additional strength is required, the parts will be lined with inexpensive stamped foil sleeves and reinforcements; but the structural members will be entirely comprised of the remarkable new cellulose material. “Our new paper buttstocks are virtually indistinguishable from genuine plastic,” company officials reported. “They even warp and separate in warm weather–just like the real thing! Kids won’t be able to tell the difference.”
Billabong President Harleigh Werthit said that the new material solves another problem the company has long struggled with–obsolescence. The new gun, when abandoned for a month in the back yard by young owners, rapidly assumes the appearance of the environment, leaving only the tiniest handful of non-bio-degradable parts to mark its one-time existence. One pass with a lawnmower and the gun is history. He concluded, “Billabong is committed to making concerns about quality a thing of the past.”
Phargone’s aural chronograph
How many of you determine your airgun’s velocity by the sound of the shot? This is a very common practice among airgunners, because it eliminates the need for an expensive chronograph that nobody knows how to use, anyway.
Professor Elvis B. Phargone has just released a CD of typical airgun shot sounds accompanied by a table of corresponding velocities. Now, you can fine-tune your ears to real precision.
“The human ear can distinguish velocity differences as small as 25 f.p.s.,” noted the famous researcher from his Breakwynd, Indiana, laboratory. “With my CD a-helpin’ them, they’ll be able to get it down to 10. I personally calibrated each shot with my own ears, which are especially sensitive. I never had a chrono ’cause I don’t need one.
Included on the new release are Phargone’s back-door-to-hickory-tree velocity tables, his “hiss-bang” CO2 pressure gauge and a new method he calls the “garbage can” system. “You’d be surprised how good you can tell sounds when your head is stuck halfway down an empty metal can.”
When questioned about the accuracy of aural chronographing, professor Phargone replied, “Heck, it’s no big deal. Doctors have been putting thermometers there for years.”
How to turn your valuable firearms into quality pellet guns in four easy steps!
Did you know that you may have a valuable air rifle lurking in your gun collection? Elvis B. Phargone tells our readers that almost every quality-made .22 rifle can easily be turned into an accurate pellet shooter with just a little diligent work.
“I take a Winchester model 63 automatic, and I make an insert for the breech to hold a shotgun primer. All I have to do is insert a pellet up the barrel, slide in the insert with a fresh primer, close the action and shoot. The whole operation takes less than a minute, and I get real good power from the pellet, too. With hot primers, I can get a .22 Crosman Premier pellet goin’ 475 f.p.s. with no sweat.
“Of course, getting the insert out of the breech is a bother, but I made a thin ramrod that does the trick in nothin’ flat. You bang it out of the gun with the ramrod, pick it up and just pry out the old primer with a jackknife, clean the insert with a brass brush, put in a new primer and she’s ready to go again. I can put two shots downrange in less than five minutes, and I don’t have to buy an expensive pellet rifle!”
With the holidays approaching, readers will want to scout for Winchester 63s and Remington 141s they can convert to pellet shooters. Professor Phargone even thinks the Belgian-made Browning .22 automatic would work, though he cautions not to convert a grade IV. The conversion could lower the gun’s intrinsic value a bit.
by B.B. Pelletier
Well, it was a good one! In fact, it was the best one I have ever been to! Let me describe it for you and tell you why I liked it. But let me also tell you what wasn’t so nice.
Pyramyd Air was not there. They usually send their techs and top sales persons to man the tables, but this year they are so swamped with they couldn’t spare the people. A few people lamented the loss–especially one man who wanted to buy a Crosman NPSS. There were none there, so for him the show didn’t pan out. Several other people mentioned wanting to see a Marauder, so I guess Crosman Corporation should team with Pyramyd Air to man a smaller sales booth in the future. I don’t know if that’s possible, but they were missed.
The show opened to dealers before 7 a.m. on Friday and to the public at noon. By 10 a.m., there was a brisk business going on among the dealers. That’s normal for a show. Dealers are buyers, too. Because they’re there before the doors open, they get to see the buys first.
Mike Driskill (left) was recognized as an outstanding airgunner for his selfless service to other collectors. Mike is pictured with award presenter Dennis Quackenbush (right) and show organizer Fred Liady.
Mike holds a Benjamin 392 that’s been modified to shoot .320 caliber ammo! This unique rifle was built by James Perotti of NC. It generates 70 ft-lbs of muzzle energy with 12 pumps, which is 3x the power of a 392.
Blog reader Fred Nemiroff found this Crosman 99 lever-action at a garage sale for $25.
Collector/shooter Joe Giunti found this FWB C10 at the show for a song.
Blog reader Mike White brought this Walther LGR Universal to sell.
But don’t think for a moment they bought it all, or that there weren’t plenty of great buys left for the public. Let me just list a few and you be the judge.
1. A 99 percent BSF 55 in the Air Rifle Headquarters box with all the shipping material and paperwork for $250! Suddenly, it was 1974 all over again. When I pointed out to the man who was examining it ON DAY TWO OF THE SHOW…that it came in the box…he didn’t believe it. The dealer had to convince him that it was included. He then sprained his wrist getting his wallet out!
2. A Working Crosman 116 pistol with a Working 10-oz. tank IN THE FREAKIN’ BOX for $100. I know it’s a shooter because I used to own it, though it wasn’t mine at this show. And here’s an anecdote that will bring a tear to your eye. A man about my age asked if I would remove the pistol’s end cap so he could try one he had that was just like it. I knew what was about to happen, and I couldn’t stop smiling. His cap fit the gun, of course, and he proceeded to tell me the story of how he had been given a Crosman rifle just like this pistol when he was a little boy. I told him he had a Crosman 114, and he was amazed that I knew. So, I pointed him to this blog and airgunning grew by one more little boy. He then bought that boxed pistol, which was a great deal.
I used to own this 112. It didn’t sell at the show.
3. Across the aisle, a Working Crosman 112 pistol in the box with a Working 10-oz. tank and all the papers. Also a gun I used to own! The price? $115.
4. A new-in-the-box Erma ELG-10 lever-action spring rifle owned by Toshiko Beeman for $615. I don’t know where you can get ANY ELG-10 in like-new condition for any price, so this was a good one.
5. A Beeman R7 in like-new condition for $300. Suddenly, it’s 1997 again. Plenty of used R7s priced at $400, but this was the only one for $300.The blog reader who wondered whether Roanoke was worth attending bought it.
6. A Weihrauch HW35 with the thumbhole stock, new-in-the-box! They didn’t even import that model into the U.S. When I told a show attendee about it (after listening to how nice the others in the room were), he found himself standing three feet from the very airgun he had come to the show to find.
7. Not ONE but TWO working Crosman 451 semiautos for under $250 each. The 600 gets all the attention, but the 451 is the real prize. Trouble is, nobody can ever find one.
8. A complete Daisy 325 2-Way Target Outfit for $200! I asked the buyer if he reported the theft after buying it, and he asked me if I did the same, which shut me up. Seconds later, a dealer presented me with a Red Ryder target set in the box, minus the scope for $100! This is the same set as the 325, only with the Red Ryder as the gun. The boxed Daisy Quick Skill set he sold me cost $5. Yes, I am not making this up. This really happened!
9. A fine working Diana model 60 recoilless target rifle for $325. I missed it by five minutes, though I did have my hands on it earlier. Too many guns, too little money!
10. An entire 40-year collection of cast-iron and folded metal BB guns, dating back to the first model Daisy. The advanced collectors in the room went berserk and spent tens of thousands of dollars in just a few hours. I watched it happen, because my table was across the aisle.
Oh, there was much, much more, but this gives you a quick taste of what went on. I traded for a SAM 10-meter pistol (made by Anschutz and designed by Cesare Morini). This is the first PCP 10-meter pistol I have ever owned and I will now try to get back into form. The trigger on this pistol is beautiful, which will help me immeasurably. I will blog it for you some time.
Yes, there were some new guns in the hall. Yes, there were some PCPs. Scott Pilkington sold 10-meter rifles and pistols, plus the accessories as well as his own Vogel pellets (he makes them in Tennessee).
A great many blog readers came up and introduced themselves, though not some of the ones I was expecting. But I got to meet many who just read the blog. I hope they’ll write some comments someday soon.
Everybody at the show talked about how the economy is in the tank. Two people told me they are out of work. Yet I saw people spending money without reserve at this show. Perhaps the prices were that much better this year, but you could not tell that the times are tough from what went on in that room. I don’t think I’ll every forget Roanoke 2009.
by B.B. Pelletier
I’m still on the road, traveling back from the airgun show in Roanoke, VA. The following short articles come from The Airgun Letter archives. These are meant to humor and entertain…they’re not serious. Some Airgun Letter subscribers thought these were serious pieces and called me to get more details and contact info for the individuals mentioned. All names, businesses and locations are fictitious. Enjoy!
Readers will be pleased to learn that noted airgun experimenter Elvis B. Phargone of Breakwynd, Indiana, is recovering nicely after his recent test of the dynamite-ram air rifle. Though the gun fired only a single shot, inventor Phargone reports, “She was a doozie. I only wish the chronograph had survived, so we’d know for sure how fast that li’l hummer was a-goin’.”
Patterning his experiment after the dynamite cannons used by American forces in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, Phargone now believes that the dynamite should probably not be used to power the gun’s piston but to be the projectile, instead. “Them reports wasn’t too clear on that,” the convalescing scientist noted from his hospital bed.
The Airgun Letter wishes a speedy and complete recovery to the man who is the living embodiment of his own motto: “I find the solution before others find the problem.”
The 1995 Arctic Circle Invitational Field Target Match
Distinguished airgun designer Elvis B. Phargone has done it again–or so says Alaskan field target champion Gelbert Schnee. Readers will recall that Mr. Schnee won last year’s Arctic Circle Field Target Invitational held at Point Barrow on December 26.
According to Gelb, the newest Phargone invention is a single-stroke pneumatic rifle producing approximately 40 ft-lbs of energy–not at the muzzle, but at the target! “We really need this kind of performance in polar competition,” said the three-time Arctic Circle champion, “because the crosswind is seldom less than 20 mph on clam [sic] days.”
Constructed from an M79 grenade launcher, the new gun propels a two-inch, 454-gram round ball at 30 f.p.s. It is ideally suited to the unique requirement of the northern competition. The Point Barrow range is completely vertical, with firing points on the catwalk of the town’s communications tower, where Schnee is employed as an antenna cleaner. Gravity boosts the ponderous projectile to about 200 f.p.s. by the time it reaches the highly modified targets below.
The new gun also has a broader attachment point for sights, which Schnee praises. “In the Arctic Circle/Tundra Airgun Association (ACTAA), we mount surplus Norden bomb sights on our guns instead of scopes. The new rifle accommodates them perfectly. Now, all we need is to get some shooters from the lower 48 to come up here and compete with us.”
Readers who are interested in competing in this year’s festivities should contact Gelb Schnee through the newsletter. Entrants must submit a court certificate of competency and pay a non-refundable $1,500.00 entry fee. Accommodations at Point Barrow this year will consist of separate cots in a heated U.S. Army GP Medium tent. Travel arrangements must be booked through Whiteout Tours, which operates a weekly supply/mail service into Barrow, weather permitting.
The screw-ram air rifle
The threshold of airgun technology rolled a back a bit further, recently, when Professor Elvis B. Phargone announced that he has finally perfected the screw-ram air rifle. The well-known inventor has secretly been working for more than a decade on his creation, which he now says is almost ready for market. The heart of the Phargone idea is the replacement of the conventional coil mainspring with a piston driven by a worm screw. “It was a mite slow at first,” admitted the Wizard of Breakwynd, Indiana, in his converted chicken coop/laboratory.
“I was usin’ the screw offa my bench vice, and the motor took a couple seconds to drive the piston home. Then, I hit on the idea of usin’ one of them Army surplus Gatling gun motors. They’re real fast! That piston slams home like a bear trap. There’s a little problem with the screw not stoppin’ in the right place an’ extrudin’ the piston crown out the transfer port, but I’ll get to that next. I’ve just about got it.” Phargone’s ever-present gallery of well-wishers agrees that he does, indeed, seem to “have it.”
The next step is finding a backer for the invention. That may prove difficult, since, with its ancillary gear, the rifle weighs 55 lbs. and requires a tractor battery for power. In the scientist’s own words, “It shore [sic] don’t recoil as much as it used to!”
The Billabong Screw-Shooter
The Billabong Air Gun Company of Laleche, Wisconsin, announced today their latest sporting air rifle–the Screw-Shooter. Long plagued by the rising cost of quality barrels, Billabong President Harleigh Werthit revealed that his company’s latest creation isn’t rifled at all! In fact, it doesn’t really have a barrel in the traditional sense. Although the new design is closely protected by patents, The Airgun Letter was able to learn that the revolutionary Screw-Shooter is based on studies recently completed by famous airgun researcher Elvis B. Phargone, in which some of the functions of the barrel and projectile are exchanged. In Phargone’s latest triumph, the barrel is a hollow tube of soft lead encased in a plastic pipe, and the pellet is made of hardened steel with a reverse rifling pattern machined on the outside. When the pellet travels down the bore, its spiral “rifling” grabs the soft lead walls of the barrel and literally screws its way out of the gun. “Concerns over barrel quality have become a relic of the past,” said the Billabong chief.
The company expects sales of the new gun to boom once thrifty airgunners realize they can reuse the same pellet hundreds of times. The need for frequent barrel changes offsets the savings a bit, but optimistic company officials see a day when shooters will buy replacements like they once bought tins of ammunition.
From the company that gave the world its only commercial cow-patty launcher, now comes the Billabong Screw-Shooter–an honest attempt at ending the airgun quality race, forever.
by B.B. Pelletier
I’m actually at the Roanoke Airgun Expo today, and writing this report has really started my juices flowing! I wanted to tell you about strategies to use on airgun dealers in this part, but while I was driving here I got inspired to write something else for today.
I got a question from a new reader that went like this,”I’m going to a gun show, and I’m a novice collector. What should I look for?” I wrote him some half-hearted reply, because how can I really help that guy? I have no idea what will be at that gun show. And then it hit me–the subject of today’s report.
I never know what’s going to turn up at ANY show!
And that’s the real answer. Since no one can predict what will show up, don’t plan on anything. Just be there and have cash or trade goods or both.
When the show opens at about 6:30 a.m. for the dealers to start bringing in all their guns, the buying and selling starts. Advanced collectors will pay for the price for a table just to get in the door at this time. They won’t actually have a table, but many of they’re ready to spend.
Some deals will have been made before the show and all that’s taking place is inspection, payment and delivery. It breaks your heart when this happens in front of you, and a gun you really wanted is sold under your nose without a word being spoken.The solution is to get to know the dealers of the kind of guns you want; next time, you’ll be the lucky guy.
But what I like to do is peruse all the tables in search of great bargains. That sounds so simple and straightforward that you probably think everybody is doing the same thing, and maybe they are–but when one guy wants a Nightforce scope and another wants a Crosman 120 multi-pump, there’s a lot of latitude! As an airgun writer, I try to keep my mind open to the good deals in all categories, even those that I personally am not interested in. For example, I don’t care much for action pistols, but when I see someone willing to sell a Colt 1911A1 for $80, I know it’s a good deal.
But something like that is just run-of-the-mill. A GREAT deal is when a local doctor backs his car up to the front door and starts offloading the like-new spring guns he has been buying since the 1980s. He has all the paper and the boxes for each gun (I love anal people when I’m buying something from them, don’t you?), and he wants exactly what he paid for each gun. So, someone goes home with a 1983 Beeman R1 for less than $300. THAT is a great deal, in my book. That scenario actually happened at the an airgun show and I mentioned it in my report on the2007 Airgun Expo in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Another thing that always happens is several people will walk the floor searching for someone to give them cash for their airguns. Again at Little Rock, this happened to me about 12 years back. A guy brought me three Daisy .118 Targeteers and six tin containers of the steel shot for them. The containers were commonly selling for $10 each at that time, but the guy asked for $100 for the whole bunch. There was at least $300 worth in that bunch. I knew he really needed the money, so I bought it. I spent my trip food money to get it, so I turned around and sold two guns and four tins of shot for $100–giving someone else a chance to get a good deal, too.
At one Winston-Salem show, the forerunner of Roanoke, a man walked in with a genuine Girandoni Austrian military repeater. A well-known American collector low-balled him with an $1,800 offer, so he stormed away and sold it to a British collector five minutes later for $3,500 cash! I know because the sale took place in front of my table! That rifle is worth over $50,000 today, and even back then it was worth about $15,000. The collector who low-balled the guy kicked himself, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. It’s assumed that everybody is a big boy at these shows.
I remember a show at which a husband and wife in the business had a pile of Johnson Target Guns in their original boxes with all the parts and paperwork. They were asking $100 for each of the approximately 20 boxes they had. Now, when something like that happens, it’s just wrong to be so focused on finding an R9 in .20 caliber that you miss the opportunity of a lifetime. I remember another show where a guy had well over 50 new-in-the-box S&W 78G and 79G pistols. He was also asking $100 each. That is not the time to try to complete your Diana model 27 collection. If the deal presents itself and you’re at all interested or if you’re just smart enough to know that you can triple your money in a couple years–TAKE THE DEAL.
I once located a second-model Crosman pump rifle left over from the Crosman morgue. The rifle didn’t work. I tried to be as honest as I could, since I was buying it from the wife of an airgun dealer close by. I offered her $150 cash money and she accepted readily. Inside one month I resold it for $600, because I knew who really wanted it. Had I wanted to, I could have dragged my feet and gotten $1,500, by talking it up and pitting one collector against another, but that’s not my style.
My wife bought an 1800s BB pistol for $5 at a local flea market. At the Damascus airgun show about a year later she sold it to a collector for $400. He restored it (refinished with paint) and sold it for $1,100 to another collector who knew it was restored. An original with the same finish is worth about $7,500.
One more dynamic that I see at almost every show is the guy with that one gun you really want. He has priced it at the high end of what’s acceptable, and it sat on his table throughout the show. Lots of lookers and failed trades, but at the end, it’s still there. Now, he would much rather go home with cash in his pocket than drag that gun back and store it for another year. So, a good offer right as he is starting to pack up often wins the day. To do this one, you have to be there for the whole show, and this is one of the benefits of doing that.
Speaking of packing, know that airgun shows keep strange hours. The dealers all wait for the show and dream about it all year long, yet when they get there they immediately start making plans to leave. Airgun shows always break up before they’re supposed to. And by always, I mean 100 percent–no exceptions. So, don’t arrive late on the last day!
I got a million stories like these, but this will do for now. I’m at the Roanoke show today, along with a few hundred other avid airgunners. Let’s see what treasures I find this year! The point of this report is that no amount of searching at a show can help you do what I have just reported. You have to go, look around and listen, too, and the deals will make themselves known.
I’ll finish with an anecdote I use to illustrate the new airgunner with the attention deficit problem. Years ago, I took my young sons to see the Harlem Globetrotters play a game at a local high school gym. Some of the players were standing at the entrance to greet the audience. My two sons were about 8 and 4 at the time, so they weren’t very tall. As we were walking past the Globetrotter center, who stood 7’1″, my oldest boy asked me in a loud voice, “Dad, do you think we will get to see any of the players close up?” When he asked that question, his head was nearly touching the knee of the Globetrotter center. I looked up at the player and we both smiled, because the crowd was pushing us past one another. Ships that pass in the night! Don’t be like that when you look for airguns.
by B.B. Pelletier
I made the picture big, so you can really see it. Crosman’s 114 is what little boy’s dreams are made of.
Back to the 114 today. As I mentioned last time, this is a bulk-fill CO2 rifle. What that means is that it doesn’t use any kind of disposable CO2 cartridge, as many CO2 guns do. Instead, a separate tank of CO2 liquid and gas is connected to the rifle, and CO2 is introduced from that tank. So, a short refresher on how CO2 works is now in order.
To fill the rifle, a separate CO2 tank is used. Every rifle was initially sold with a tank, plus spares were also sold. This tank holds about 10 oz. of liquid CO2, so it is called a 10-ounce tank.
How CO2 works
Carbon dioxide is a strange gas. At room temperature when liquid carbon dioxide (or solid carbon dioxide–which is also called dry ice) is confined in a pressure vessel like an airgun reservoir or a separate tank, it will evaporate until it reaches a pressure around 900 psi. Actually, at 70 deg. F. it attains the pressure of 853 psi when confined. At that point, no more gas will evaporate and the pressure will stay constant, as long as the temperature doesn’t fluctuate. The remaining liquid or solid will stay as it is, with the solid turning to liquid at this temperature.
If some of the gas is released, such as through a valve when an airgun fires, the pressure inside the vessel will drop and immediately more of the liquid will turn to gas. As long as liquid remains in the pressure vessel, the pressure of the gas remains more or less constant–except for one thing. As the gas is exhausted, it carries some latent heat with it. That lowers the temperature of the pressure vessel and the firing valve in the gun. In turn, that cooling effect lowers the pressure of the remaining gas to some extent. On a hot day, the temperature returns to normal relatively fast. But on a cooler day, the temperature takes longer to cycle back. When the ambient temperature drops below about 50 deg. F., the temperature of the gun takes a very long time to recover, and the pressure of the gas continues to drop as the gun is fired.
You can learn two things from this. First, CO2 regulates its own pressure. Nobody compresses it, in the traditional sense of the word. At least airgunners don’t. They rely on that high-vapor pressure to operate their guns. While the pressure is limited, it’s also self-sustaining, so it’s possible to get a lot of shots at a very consistent velocity–except in cold weather.
When the temperature is below about 50-60 deg. F., CO2 will chill the gun as it fires, causing the gas pressure to drop. It’s a warm-weather gas. Knowing that, you will be able to use it without many problems. As long as there’s some liquid remaining, the gas will maintain the same pressure. Once the last of the liquid is gone, the pressure of the gas drops straight off and the shots quickly become slow and unusable.
Now, apply the knowledge
CO2 liquid maintains pressure by evaporation to gas. CO2 gas does not maintain pressure and drops pressure rapidly. Knowing that, you understand that you want to have liquid CO2 in your gun. How much you have determines how many shots you can get at a sustained velocity. So, bulk-fill guns are designed to introduce liquid CO2 into the gun during a fill. With the 114, it’s very easy to do.
First, unscrew the protective cap at the end of the reservoir. If you have a gun that doesn’t have a cap, do something to protect this area, because any dirt that gets into the fill port can be blown into the gun during a fill. Many CO2 guns have a fine mesh screen to catch dirt particles, but don’t rely on that. Make sure no dirt is present to begin with.
The end cap is a screw that protects the fill port from dirt. Remove it to attach the CO2 tank.
Next, screw the separate CO2 tank to the gun. Now, hold the gun so it’s pointing straight up and the tank is pointing straight down. That lets the liquid CO2 gather in what is now the bottom of the tank (it’s being held upside-down), where it will be blown into the airgun. Hold onto the wheel on the tank and rotate the tank body so the valve will open. You will both hear and feel the liquid CO2 flow into the gun (the gun’s reservoir gets noticeably colder). The gas and liquid will stop flowing when equilibrium is reached, so you don’t have to do anything special. Today, some guns require the owner to weigh the reservoir before and after the fill to ensure that too much liquid did not get into the reservoir. The older Crosman guns didn’t have such a requirement. Under normal conditions (room temperature or higher), it’s nearly impossible to overfill the gun.
The tank is screwed to the end of the gun for filling.
Once the gun is filled–it only takes a few seconds–close the tank’s valve and unscrew the tank from the gun. If you got a good fill (the right amount of liquid), your gun will shoot for many shots before velocity drops off. This is the point at which the 114 starts to resemble a PCP. In fact, in a curious twist of irony, Crosman designed the Benjamin Discovery to use either CO2 or high-pressure air. Many confirmed CO2 shooters who had sworn they would never go over to “the dark side” and use air have discovered (pun intended) that filling with air to 2,000 psi isn’t much different than filling with CO2. You just get fewer shots and much higher velocity. They became reluctant converts to air power!
The modern way to full
If you don’t have a 10-oz. tank or you don’t want to invest in a 20-lb. tank to fill it when it gets empty, you can buy an adapter to fill these guns from paintball tanks that are easy to get filled at paintball shops. The adapters are available from those companies specializing in CO2 guns.
So, now we have a good idea of what a 114 is and how to fill it. Next time, we’ll look at the rifle’s performance.