Archive for December 2009

The ballistic pendulum

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of you have wondered how the gun makers of centuries past were able to test the power of their guns. This blog has touched on a few of the ways gun power was measured over the years, with the Splatology discussion being the most significant. If you are not aware of that report you really need to read it, because it’s the Rosetta stone that unlocks the mysteries of the past when it comes to airgun power.

Another way the shooters of history determined relative power was by the use of the ballistic pendulum. You can find a wealth of information about the ballistic pendulum online. Just do a Google search for ballistic pendulums and see what turns up.

The first big bore airgun match needed a ballistic pendulum
My own experience with ballistic pendulums dates back to the time I ran the first big bore airgun match at the August 1998 Mid-Atlantic Airgun show. I needed a way of determining the relative power level of the guns in that match and, even though we had and used modern electronic chronographs to record the power of the guns, I wanted something more–something that visibly showed the power so everybody could see it. I wanted what didn’t exist at the time–a ballistic pendulum for big bore airguns.

Gary Barnes was helping put the big bore match together, so he took on the project of building a ballistic pendulum for it, too. What he wound up building was a large spidery machine with a 4-inch steel plate the shooters had to hit. I wanted the match to be challenging, so we placed the pendulum 40 yards from the firing line. Believe me, in 1998, hitting a 4-inch target at 40 yards with a big-bore airgun was considered a big deal!


The ballistic pendulum was two feet high and four feet long.


A pen under spring pressure recorded how far the pendulum arm swung.


The steel plate was backed by more steel to make the pendulum arm heavy and to strengthen the plate.

Put up or shut up
In fact, hitting the target at all was the principal motivation for building the pendulum the way it was made. At the time, there were all sorts of stories circulating about super-powerful big bore guns with unbelievable accuracy. Among them, some smoothbore Farco air shotguns were supposed to be getting 2-inch 5-shot groups at 50 yards. Yeah–right! We ran this first-ever modern big-bore match as a “put up or shut up” affair, and not surprisingly a lot of shooters had to shut up.

At the first match, there were several guns that could not hit the target even one time in five shots. Out of 11 shooters, only 6 managed to hit the target even once out of five tries, and one of the six just scraped paint off the edge of the plate without recording any energy on target.

The score was determined by a combination of hits on the 4-inch plate and energy recorded by the pendulum. That last part was very arbitrary, as I will discuss in a moment, but back to the scoring. The more energy a gun had, the higher number of points were given for each hit on the plate. Powerful, accurate guns were rewarded, and weaker guns that were still accurate were penalized. The thinking behind that was that we wanted to reward power in combination with accuracy.

The lessons of the pendulum
How the first match turned out was less important than the lessons that the big pendulum taught us. First, it taught us that no rifle can ever expend all of its energy on a ballistic pendulum. How much it does expend is really how much that gets recorded, and that can only ever be a fraction of the total energy available. Let’s look at some energy thieves and learn why ballistic pendulums aren’t foolproof.

1. Loss of energy through projectile deformation
When a bullet hits a steel plate of any mass, it deforms, taking some of the impact energy with it. If the bullet hits at a very high speed, the deformation is more violent, robbing more energy. A lightweight bullet from a high-power centerfire rifle, for instance, will turn into lead powder and guilding-metal fragments, with an accompanying flash of light caused by the heat of impact that flashes some of the lead dust to incandescence. A slower, heavier projectile will not fragment as much and will impart greater energy to the target, causing the pendulum arm to swing farther. A ballistic pendulum constructed as this one was will show that a 400-grain bullet moving at 750 f.p.s. has greater energy than a 55-grain bullet moving at 3,200 f.p.s., even though the smaller, lighter bullet actually has more than twice the energy of the larger bullet.

This bias can be offset a little by selecting a different medium for the target. For example, if a big log is used and positioned to be hit on the end by both bullets, the smaller bullet will make a much better showing. That’s because the log will absorb more of the bullet’s impact energy without allowing as much deformation.

2. Friction
The pendulum has friction in several places. The arm that swings has bearings with friction, and the pen that records the energy also has some friction. Granted, these are both small forces, but they’re still real and they do matter. Barnes made the arm of the pendulum ride in a long bearing that was oiled and exercised frequently, but it still retarded the swing angle of the arm.

3. Gravity
As the pendulum arm swings, it soon comes under the influence of gravity. The moment it swings past 90 degrees, gravity starts pulling at the swinging arm, slowing it down.

4. Glancing blows
When the bullet hits the plate, the plate begins to move. The bullet expends its energy by deforming, breaking into dust and flashing to incandescence, but it also glances away from the plate fairly fast. As it goes, it carries some energy with it. Other ballistic pendulums have been built with bullet (pellet) traps in their pendulum plates. The plates were shaped like funnels, so the bullet was deflected ever inward and continued to expend energy against the plate.

The energy thieves were but one lesson the pendulum taught us. Another was how arbitrary our measurements really were. If you look at the lines drawn on the scorecard, they’re supposed to represent foot-pounds of energy. Even when I made up the scorecard, I knew I was drawing the lines arbitrarily because I had no good way to calibrate them. Oh, I did shoot a few rounds with a blank scorecard in the machine so I could get a rough approximation of the energy needed to deflect the pen, but it was far from accurate or exact. It was never calibrated because I had no good understanding of how the energy thieves acted. Nothing was linear, either. As I mentioned earlier, a light, fast bullet was penalized, compared to a slow heavy bullet. The farther the pendulum swung, the more gravity acted upon it.

The next year, Ray and Hans Apelles showed up with single-shot Career 9mm rifles. We had added a 50-yard accuracy test to the ballistic pendulum test and they taught us another lesson. On the pendulum, they used a bullet that weighed over 175 grains, if I recall. I think it even weighed over 200 grains. But it was hell on the pendulum, with most shots smacking the plate sideways or nearly so. It did what they wanted it to do. But on the target at 50 yards, they used a 9mm pistol bullet that probably weighted 115-125 grains. Far more stable and accurate at airgun velocities.


Gary Barnes shot a .563 Express to win the match.


Bob Chilko shot his homemade .398 multi-pump pneumatic.

The Chilkos
We learned another big lesson about big bore accuracy from the team of Bob Chilko and his son, Mike. They competed with their homemade smoothbore big bore guns. Bob shot an underlever and Mike shot a front-pumper that took 30 strokes to pressurize for every shot. Mike hit the 40-yard target four times in five shots and had everyone talking. How could he do that with a smoothbore? It turned out Mike, who was a physicist, had designed dumbbell-shaped slugs for both guns that had such high drag they flew accurately without a spin on them.

I noted that within the year, Gary Barnes was selling similar bullets for his big bores, and they pushed the distance at which his rifles were accurate from about 50 yards to 200! He called them Hornets, for the noise they made in flight. These bullets were a reincarnation of the French Balle Blondeau shotgun slug of the 1960s that revitalized the rifled slug industry.

So, the bottom line with the ballistic pendulum was that it provided everyone with an extended course in practical physics. In a world where accurate electronic chronographs abound, there isn’t much reason to have one of these. But at one time, they were the best that money could buy.

AirForce Edge – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, I’ll look at the velocity of the AirForce Edge. That includes recording a total shot string on one fill of air.

Why the rifle is sold without the rear sight
Before I begin, I want to comment on how the rifle is being sold. The Edge is sold both with sights and with a front sight only. The front sight has to come with the gun because of the proprietary way it attaches to the gun. There is no other front target sight (or any other kind of sight, for that matter) on the market that will attach to the Edge. You may notice that the front sight is very tall. That’s so the rear sight, which is mounted on a raised ramp on the receiver, will align with the front sight. While it’s possible to mount different rear sights on an Edge, each of them will be adjusted differently than the AirForce Adaptive Rear Target Sight the gun was designed for. Only the AirForce rear sight is recommended for this rifle. This will undoubtedly raise some questions in many buyer’s minds as to why the gun would be sold without sights.

There are thousands of shooters who do not shoot their target rifles in competition. These shooters like to mount scopes on their target rifles and shoot targets and other things in the privacy of their homes. They can buy an Edge without the rear sight for less money and remove the front sight. They can then mount a scope on the rifle.

Using a hand pump
A couple days ago, a reader named Ron asked me how difficult it is to fill the Edge from a hand pump. I’d like to answer that here. And you will note that I have linked you to the Benjamin hand pump instead of the AirForce hand pump for two important reasons. First, because as of this writing, the Benjamin pump is in stock, while the AirForce pump is not; and second, the AirForce pump does not come with a hose that connects to the Edge, while the Benjamin hand pump does.

The hand pump becomes difficult at different pressures for different people. The resistance climbs as the pump compresses to ever-higher pressure. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what gun is being filled. All that matters is the pressure that’s being compressed.

For me, the pump starts to become hard after passing 2,500 psi. But I have coached hundreds of different people through the process and have seen them stall out at different pressure levels. One woman started noticing the increasing difficulty at 1,600 psi. By the time she got to 2,000 psi, she was finished. I can still pump the pump with one hand at that pressure. I’m not bragging; I’m saying that the hand pump will feel vastly different for every person who tries it.

Here, however, is the difference between the Edge rifle and the Air Arms S410 Ron was comparing it to in a blog comment. Ron gets 25-35 good shots from his .22 caliber S410. With the Edge, he’ll get over 100. When he shoots the S410, he’s plinking. If he were hunting, he wouldn’t complain about pumping for so few shots because he probably wouldn’t shoot those 25-35 shots in a full day of hunting. Hence, we know he’s plinking. Also, the S410 reservoir is probably three times the volume of the Edge reservoir, so it takes many more pump strokes to fill.

With the Edge, he’ll probably be shooting at paper targets. It will take him 90 minutes to shoot all the shots he has in the gun. Once again, no time to notice how difficult it was to pump for the three minutes that it took.

But even if Ron were to plink with the Edge, he’d still be shooting for a half-hour at least. It took me that long to complete the shot strings for today’s test, and that was only because I now have a printer doing half my work. So, my answer is “no,” the Edge is not a hard gun to fill with a hand pump. But there will be something like 10 to 20 strokes that will be hard because they’ll be the ones climbing from 2,500 psi to 3,000 psi or wherever the difficult part kicks in for you. The Edge has the reservoir volume of an air pistol, and no pistol shooter I know complains of the difficulty of filling the gun because they know the effort is brief but the shooting will be long.

The test
I tested the rifle with both RWS R10 Heavy Match pellets made for rifles and with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. By “test,” I mean I shot full strings from 3,000 psi until the gun fell off the regulator. What follows is the shot-by-shot velocity recorded from the Finale Match pellet test.

Shot…Velocity
1……….dnr
2……….dnr
3……….524
4……….526
5……….528
6……….dnr
7……….528
8……….522
9……….529
10………525
11………528
12………524
13………528
14………dnr
15………525
16………527
17………525
18………522
19………524
20………520
21………522
22………525
23………522
24………525
25………521
26………525
27………522
28………520
29………523
30………518
31………521
32………520
33………524
34………525
35………523
36………523
37………519
38………518
39………dnr
40………522
41………526
42………dnr
43………525
44………524
45………524
46………525
47………523
48………526
49………526
50………521
52………524
53………526
54………523
55………524
56………522
57………522
58………521
59………526
60………523
61………526
62………526
63………527
64………525
65………525
66………526
67………524
68………528
69………527
70………524
71………527
72………522
73………522
74………527
75………524
76………526
77………525
78………526
79………521
80………523
81………526
82………dnr
83………528
84………531
85………526
86………522
87………527
88………527
89………520
90………523
91………528
92………526
93………524
94………527
95………525
96………522
97………530
98………526
99………526
100……..528
101……..527
102……..530
103……..529
104……..543**
105……..535
106……..539
107……..524
108……..516*
————–
109……..511
110……..503
111………503
112……..497
113……..492
114……..486
115……..481

dnr = did not register
* = slowest shot in string
** = fastest shot in string

Analysis of string
The string shows clearly that the Edge has exceeded its 100-shot criteria. I drew an arbitrary line after shot 108, but a shooter on the line would not have a chronograph to record all the velocities like this. So the shooter is safe if he stops after shot 100. If he does that, the fastest recorded shot went 530 f.p.s and the slowest went 518 f.p.s., a difference of only 12 f.p.s. across 100 shots.

I continued to shoot after it became obvious that the gun had fallen off the regulator to show you what that looks like. When a gun has reached the point at which the reservoir pressure drops lower than the pressure the regulator is set for normal operation, we say the gun has “fallen off the reg,” which means that the reg remains open and all subsequent shots will diminish in velocity, just as you see here. The actual spot where it fell off was probably following shot number 106.

Performance with a heavier pellet
The H&N Finale Match pellet used for the first string weighs 7.56 grains, nominally. I also tested an RWS R10 Heavy Match pellet more suited to match rifles. It weighs 8.2 grains, nominally. I won’t give you every velocity for this string, though I do have them, but the average velocity was 487 f.p.s. across a total shot string of 105 shots. The fastest shot went 511 f.p.s., and the slowest shot went 480 f.p.s.; there was a variance by 31 f.p.s. across the entire string. That’s a large difference from the tight spread turned in with the lighter Finale Match pellet. It suggests that this pellet may be too heavy for the best performance in the rifle, but there’s no way of knowing that for certain without shooting it for accuracy. At just 10 meters, a difference of 31 f.p.s. is probably not enough to show a difference on target.

What does this test show?
This test shows the consistency of the Edge through the entire fill. It does not tell us anything about accuracy or potential accuracy. What we’ve learned for certain is that the Edge regulator works as intended, and that the rifle has all the shots necessary to shoot a sporter-class match with a generous number of sighters in each position.

What’s next?
The next test is accuracy, but there are still some features I need to show you. So, the accuracy report will be expanded a little to cover some things on the trigger and how the action operates. Then, I have a surprise for you that will have to come in a later report.

Doing strange things with airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

Last Friday’s report about the short-barreled Crosman 760 hit home with Josh Ungier, who called me with several strange uses for airguns he has heard from his customers over the years. Some of them won’t sound that strange to many of you, which is a strong indication that Jeff Foxworthy might label you as rednecks.

I thought that today I would pass along Josh’s stories, and add a few of my own.

New holes in belts
I am at the forefront of the redneck parade, having discovered the use of a pellet rifle to punch new holes in a leather belt when you are on a diet. Use a .177 rifle and shoot a wadcutter pellet if you can. Lay the belt on a two by four, unless you use a .177-caliber AirForce Condor, in which case use two two by fours, one on top of the other, to stop the pellet. Actually all it takes is a rifle that delivers at least 800 f.p.s. to punch clean new holes in leather belts. Centering the hole is the most difficult part.

Cleaning house
This one comes from Josh. A lady in Iowa camped out several nights in her attic with a new Crosman 1077AS Combo. She complained that squirrels chewed through a TV cable on the outside of their house, then set up housekeeping in their attic. Their nest was in an area impossible to reach, which anyone who has ever owned an attic should be familiar with. Before the Crosman arrived, her husband had taken it upon himself to “correct” the problem. However, his shotgun solution proved to be overkill in the confined space of the attic. After removing ricocheting bird shot from his scalp and forehead and replacing a bunch of insulation and shingles, they purchased the Crosman and got serious. They buried (or ate) a bunch of squirrels and are now living happily ever after.

A cautionary tail
Another story from Josh. “About 6 years ago, we sold a .25 caliber original British Patriot. A few months later, I received a phone call from the gentleman who purchased the rifle. As it turns out, he owns a huge 45-acre junkyard in one of the western states. He was so happy with the rifle he said he needed to share it with me.

‘Damn rats! Thousands of rats! At times the yard would swarm with them! I never liked guns! I never owned a gun; but after my dog was attacked and bitten, I needed to do something. My fiend had a .22 Patriot he bought from you years ago. He asked me to try it. After an hour of practice, I could hit everything I shot at. He suggested a .25 caliber for a sure kill. That is when I called you up. I collect the tails of most of the rats I kill. I’m at 1600 and counting.’”

At this point, I have to butt in to comment that killing squirrels in the attic and rats anywhere does not seem like a redneck venture to me. But that’s the problem. You see, when you’re a redneck, you don’t know it. Here’s the litmus test. Imagine your story being reported on the NBC Nightly News. Then, the red-neckedness of your actions becomes both clear and obvious. However, just because I said neckedness doesn’t mean you have to take your clothes off.

Time for another one.

Flying rats
This one’s from Josh:

“Son,” the conversation started, “can your rifles shoot 48 feet upwards?”

I detected a very strong southern accent. “Indeed they can,” I answered. “What is it that you are shooting at?” I continued.

“Damn sky rats. Pigeons. They crap all over my bells.”

“I beg your pardon,” I said. “Did you say bells?”

“What did you think I said?” continued the voice with a detectable light smirk. “I do not expose myself in public.” He continued laughing, “I have a church in a small parish. We have two bells in a steeple. Over time, pigeons have moved in and started roosting in the bell tower. Ringing the bells does not bother them. They leave during the ringing and then return with a vengeance. There is so much crap on the bells that they have changed their tone.

“Firecrackers did not help. It scared them and they unloaded even more on the bells. My 10/22 made holes in the roof and once in a while called parishioners to worship when I missed the pigeon and hit the bells.”

Months later I received a call from this wonderful man. “That 350 magnum is a whopper! No more holes in the roof! No pigeons, either! My son took over the exterminatin’. Thank you.”

Icicles
Here’s one of mine. One of our Airgun Letter subscribers used a BB gun to rid his roof of icicles in late winter. He had learned that a pellet rifle was too powerful and would shoot through the aluminum gutters. Since the icicles were always on the roof, every shot was upward and either the gutters or the soffits were always in the shot. He learned to connect with the icicle midway up the shaft, where the vibration from the impact would cause the icicle to shatter near its root. It took several hits to do the trick with these monsters most of the time, but he found he could trim those killer four-foot spears back to about a foot this way, and no more holes in his gutters.

Post time
Here’s another one from Josh. A guy in California has a very steep driveway over 140 feet long. Too lazy to walk the distance to get the papers or the mail, he rigged up a motorized mail/newspaper box. A small electric motor is attached to a pole at the end of the driveway. A small pulley is attached to the post and driven by the motor. From the pulley, a thin nylon cable stretches back to another pulley outside a window on the house. The mailbox/newspaper box therefore hangs suspended from a cable at the end of the driveway.

Attached to the motor is a two-inch steel plate. When a pellet hits the steel plate, it starts the motor and the mail gets delivered to his window without him going outside. He uses an Air Arms S410 in .22 caliber with a 3-12×44 Leapers SWAT scope. My hat’s off to his shooting, but, man, take a walk on the wild side…once in a while!

Thanks, Josh. I would add that there is a new invention called a switch that could also activate the electric motor, but, as we all realize, where’s the fun in that?

About 15 years ago, a policeman from Honolulu told me the airlines there use pellet rifles to remove egrets nesting inside the hangars. It seems that when they nest indoors, they poop on the airplanes and their excrement is very acidic. It eats through the paint and eventually through the metal on the planes, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage every year. The pellet guns are very effective, yet they don’t penetrate the roof of the hangars, which makes them the best choice for this job.

I asked him whether egrets are a protected species in Hawaii, and he dodged the answer with, “Who cares? When the wings fall off an airliner nobody wants to count egrets!” I guess that was also NASA’s opinion when they removed the woodpeckers from the sides of their launch vehicles sitting on the pad.

By the way, the reason this policeman knew the story of the egrets was that he was one of the shooters. He said, “Outside the hangar, the egrets were fine. Inside they were endangered.”

Well that’s it for unusual airgun stories today. Perhaps some of you readers have some more stories to share with us!

Healthways Plainsman BB gun – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Before I begin today’s report, I neglected to show pictures of our cats on Christmas. So, here they are…the Gaylord feline herd.


Punky is a recent addition to the herd. He was living outdoors under the neighbor’s car until we invited him to join us and win the kitty lottery. He’s a tuxedo cat, though he doesn’t act snooty. He’s the real puppy dog of the house–demanding attention and petting all the time.


Dale Evans was our first new kitty in Texas. She is a feisty calico who rules the house.


We got Roy Rogers as a kitten to be Dale’s playmate. Now, he’s a 25-lb. Baby Huey with the voice of a kitten in the mass of a bobcat. He’s very shy and only Mirfee Ungier, Josh’s wife, has ever been able to pet him on the first attempt, though Wacky Wayne got to meet him this fall.


When they were younger and Roy was smaller, both cats often posed for pornographic photos. We were about to make a calendar when they both got scruples and started behaving in public.

Now, on to today’s report.


Healthways Plainsman is a very comfortable air pistol. It has a light, smooth trigger.

Well, it’s been a while since I last reported on this pistol. November 5th it was–Guy Fawkes Day, for out British readers. For the rest of you, look up the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. How appropriate!

The last time I had the Plainsman in my hands, I was doing velocity testing for you with a gun that had a fast leak. Still, on low power, it got an average of 385 f.p.s., which is not too shabby. On medium power, it got 415 f.p.s.; and on high power, it went an average of 437. So, this big pistol can really cook when it wants to. And, even on low power, there’s plenty of velocity for a lot of good shooting.

However, it had the aforementioned fast leak, and this is the real crux of today’s story. For the 50-odd years I’ve been shooting airguns, and the past 15 during which I’ve been an active airgun writer, there hasn’t been anyone in the United States who fixed this gun. Or, if there was, they were ensconced in the Witness Protection Program and known only to their neighbors in Wyoming.

So, all of you who wisely waited until 2009 to get into airgunning have avoided a lot of downtime if the Plainsman BB gun was the object of your desire. Because now there’s a fixer. Doug Vorenkamp out in Washington State fixes these guns and has earned a spot on my growing list of valuable airgun repair stations that really do fix airguns and aren’t just dabbling. Contact him at airguns@comcast.net or call him at 360-656-5123.

Doug told me originally that he would have to convert my gun from the 8-gram CO2 cartridges it used to the more plentiful 12-gram cartridges because he was unable to get the right o-rings for the original valve. He did replace the original valve with a new one, but left the cartridge size as it was, so I still use the smaller cartridges.

There was a Healthways Plainsman 12-gram adapter that came out in the 1960s, but my ’50s-vintage gun didn’t have it. Those guns that had it could use both sizes of CO2 cartridges. I’m glad to be running with the smaller cartridge, because that keeps me sympathetic to all those who have to use them. It just means that I can’t buy CO2 for this gun at Wal-Mart. I order it from Pyramyd Air.

What I want to find out today is how well the gun works after Doug’s been inside. Let’s get right to it, shall we? First, I’ll test the pistol’s velocity on low, medium and high power with Daisy BBs.

Low power
Well, low power really IS low power this time! After Doug’s rebuild, the gun averages 268 f.p.s. on low power, which is not too far from what I estimated it would be based on the advertised number of shots per cartridge (100 on low). The spread went from 257 to 276, which if you read Part 2 is about what I estimated it to be. This is not bad. Doug has simply returned the gun to where it was when it came from the factory. It gives medium power and high power somewhere to go.

Medium power
The gun averaged 377 f.p.s. on medium power, so now there really is a significant difference over low power. The spread went from 362 to 395, though I did notice a cooling effect if I shot faster than one shot every 15 seconds. That was in a room at 79 degrees F.

High power
High power averaged 435 f.p.s., with a spread from 426 to a high of 456. Another significant power increase. The gun now has a real personality on each of the power settings. You’ll note that high power now is right where it was on the original valve before the work was done. So, nothing was lost on the overhaul. In fact, a whole lot was gained because now the total number of shots on low power will be close to the 100 advertised. I shot about 55-60 in this test, because many failed to register on the chronograph. And I’m still grateful for my Christmas present of the Chrony printer, because now all I have to do is shoot.

But this test isn’t over until I test the gun with Daisy Avanti Precision Ground Shot. Now that we know how that shot boosts the velocity, it has become a part of every BB gun test. On low, the average is 262 f.p.s., so not much difference. The spread was tighter, though, running from 259 to 265. On medium power, the average was 370 f.p.s., with another tight spread from 367 to 375. Once again, not much difference from the standard BBs. On high power, the average was 445 f.p.s., with a spread from 441 to 449. So, again, no real increase; just tighter spreads. Maybe the accuracy testing will show a real difference between the two BBs.

I have to pronounce the Vorenkamp overhaul a success, and we’re now on track for the accuracy test.

Merry Christmas + an unusual Crosman 760

by B.B. Pelletier

For all who celebrate the birth of Jesus, Merry Christmas. For everyone else, happy Friday. You know I like to give you something interesting to talk about on Fridays, and today will be no exception. This airgun was literally thrust upon me at the Roanoke airgun show this year. I was charged with telling the tale of a strange and interesting airgun that was modified to do a special job.

Modified airguns are no big deal. You see them all the time. Perhaps the most modified guns of all are the ones from Crosman and from their two subsidiary brands, Benjamin and Sheridan. Not only is there a red-hot aftermarket of tuners, customizers and boutique parts sellers, Crosman also operates a custom shop and sells parts to the public for just this reason. So, encountering a customized Crosman, Benjamin or Sheridan isn’t that unusual.


This 760 has been modified by cutting off the barrel.

What’s unusual is to find a gun that’s been modified for use by a government–local, state or federal. Oh, they exist, too, but they’re not exactly selling on craigslist. Whether it’s an AirForce Talon SS used by the USDA to kill nutria in Oregon or a Career 707 .22 repeater used by NASA to keep woodpeckers from poking holes in spacecraft insulation when they’re on the pad for launch, these guns do exist, but as you can imagine, are not publicized in the literature.

What I have to show you today, however, is different. It’s a stock pneumatic that someone deliberately cut down for reasons I cannot determine. And from the markings that tell us the most about the gun, it may not be the only one.

The subject gun is a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster, which is a standard gun and rarely worthy of special interest. This model is an older one, a single-shot with wood on both the butt and pump/forearm. We know it was probably made between 1966 and 1970 and is considered a first variation of the model. That triples the value, according to the Blue Book, which gets it up close to $100 in 100 percent condition. In truth, a standard 760 first variation would bring a little more than that, but I am going by the Blue Book entry.

However, this isn’t a standard gun. The smoothbore (confirmed by me) barrel has been cut back to 12 inches, leaving just enough room for the pump handle anchor to remain–unaltered. The carbine that was an adaptation of the Crosman 130 pistol has been castrated back to pistol power by virtue of a shortened barrel. If you’re a new reader, a shortened barrel reduces the power that a pneumatic can attain.

It would be easy to criticize the gun for the shorter barrel, but the information engraved on the right side of the receiver indicates that this gun was once the property of the Oconee County, South Carolina, Game Control Department. It also has the number .37 engraved on the side of the gun. That appears to be a rack number or a property number, which is why I made the assumption that there could be other airguns just like it. However, the decimal before the number may mean that it’s something else.


The markings are what make the gun the curiosity it is.

Whoever shortened the barrel did a workmanlike job. Good enough work that Crosman could have done it themselves. Then, they replaced the sight, which is a plastic blade on a ramp. There are sights front and rear, so there was some semblance of shooting to hit a mark. Smoothbore 760s are not that accurate, and short-barreled pneumatics would have very little in the way of muzzle energy. I think it’s safe to assume that this gun was not meant to kill anything. In fact, it’s almost as if they were trying to reduce the velocity to as low as it would go, and of course the multi-pump design would help with that, as well.

I’m guessing that this gun was used to motivate larger animals. Like an extended cattle prod, the game officer could put in three pumps and whack the errant bull in the butt without breaking the skin. These were the 1970s, and little was known about the relative power of airguns, but it’s a cinch they knew that this one was not lethal or humane.

But 37 of the same gun for one county? Somebody, please tell me what’s up with that? That number must mean something else.

I must be wrong about the gun. Maybe it was used to anger hornets or wild bees, but duh! And 37 of them?

Maybe the rack number was just a serial applied to all guns owned by the county and this was just No. 37. No. 36 might have been a Remington Gamemaster in .30-06.

Is it obvious that I’m grasping at straws? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Exactly how fast it shoots, I can’t say because the mechanism isn’t working. And the owner doesn’t care whether it shoots or not. Besides, breaking it down for repairs would probably mark up the near-perfect finish. If I had to guess, I’d say it probably pops out a pellet at 400 f.p.s and a BB a little faster. Sort of like returning to its 130 roots.

The gun’s owner doesn’t want to sell it. It’s probably not worth a lot, but there’s a certain oddity value in a gun like this, and this one has a bucket of it. Things like this appear at airgun shows all the time, where collectors of the odd and eclectic are glad to acquire them.

AirForce Edge – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: The first shipment of AirForce Edge rifles has arrived at Pyramyd Air!

Part 1


AirForce Edge is available in red and blue.

Today, we’ll continue our look at the AirForce Edge 10-meter target rifle. Normally, the second report is dedicated to velocity testing, but today I’m going to finish the special features in our look through the gun.

Colors
In the 10-meter world, guns come in vibrant colors. It’s one thing that sets 10-meter shooters apart from most other shooting sports. Daisy has even added color to the dies in their laminated stocks on the 853 in recognition of this trend. So, AirForce decided to join the fun and offer colors. The rifle I’m testing is red, but on the Pyramyd Air website, the rifle shown is blue. At this time, those are the only two colors offered, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out with others before too long. Right now, they’re pushing production to fill all their backorders. When they catch up with those, they’ll have some time to play a bit.

Sealing and inspection of the rifle–a story within the story
What follows isn’t a feature of the gun, but it’s germane to the Edge story. In fact, it runs parallel to the experience Crosman had when they first set up their PCP production lines for the Benjamin Discovery and the Benjamin Marauder, so it’s worth knowing. The Edge is a different rifle for AirForce. Until now, they’ve had the luxury of one of the largest air reservoirs on the market. Their 490cc air reservoir, which also serves as their butt, holds so much air that even with the powerful Condor there was air to spare. Not so with the Edge, though.

You may never have noticed, but the air reservoir of the AirForce rifles has always been a scuba dive tank. It’s stamped with the information found on all dive tanks, and more importantly it’s 100 percent tested and certificated for diving. The fact that AirForce uses it as their gun reservoir does not take away from the rigor each tank must go through and pass. That tank is a costly part of the gun–VERY costly!

The Edge had to be priced right (read that as cheap) to satisfy the sporter class shooter, as well as the youth clubs that want to buy several guns for their teams. While many people are criticizing the cost of the new gun, they don’t realize the hoops AirForce is jumping through to hold the cost down. I’m sure Crosman is running up against this with their new Challenger PCP, as well.

One way to trim some cost was to make the reservoir in-house rather than buying those expensive dive tanks. That also allowed the length of the stock to be shorter, which was necessary for a sporter rifle. However, the reservoir has to be made of material that meets known strength specifications, and that means it not only has to be made from the right materials, but also it has to have a certain minimum wall thickness. So, the available volume for the compressed air was quite small–about what would be found in a conventional 10-meter air pistol.

For that reason, an air regulator was required, to stretch the use of the limited air that was available. That regulator had to be designed, tested and to pass through several design stages before passing through to the production gun. If you’re interested in why the Edge took so long to come to market, the regulator was a large part of it. I’ll test my Edge with several target pellets for you, and I’ll test at least one full string to see how many total good shots are on a fill. The goal AirForce set for the gun was 100 good shots, which gives them a match plus sighter shots in each position.

Because of the design, there was no huge air supply to draw on in order to get those 100 good shots, so the Edge had to be super-sealed to make the most of what little air there was. A lot of time went into the selection of seals and o-rings and also in the shaping of sealing surfaces and o-ring seats. More of the development time that prolonged the development.

Each regulator also has to be set by hand before it’s installed in a gun. When I worked at AirForce several years ago, one of my jobs was testing every valve that went into the guns. That was done after the valve was assembled, and the procedure not only tested the valve against leaks but it also seated the valve against its seat for a perfect seal. That work still has to be done with the Edge, of course. Setting the regulator is a new requirement on top of that. So, there’s extra testing and extra complexity in this rifle.

One last comment before I return to the rifle’s features. Do you remember that I showed you the positive bolt lock on the Edge bolt raceway in Part 1? Well, that lock plays into the overall sealing of the rifle upon firing. It brings the bolt back over the top hat, so the small o-ring inside the bolt can seal the air from escaping. With all sporting rifles, there’s a puff of air that escapes the breech. On some guns that bury their actions deep in wooden stocks, this puff cannot be felt. Others like the AirForce guns are exposed and it’s easy to feel. You won’t feel it with the Edge, though. All the air goes out the barrel behind the pellet.

Fill
Like all AirForce rifles, the butt removes, however it cannot be filled from the front like the other AirForce rifles. A Foster male quick-disconnect fitting on the back end of the butt allows the gun to be filled without removing anything. Disassembly simply makes the rifle smaller for easier transport.


The butt comes off for easier transport.


Quick-disconnect Foster fitting on the butt means the rifle can stay assembled during filling.

Weight and see
One thing John McCaslin noticed when he visited sporter matches was that the guns were coated with lead weights. Stuck on with tape and glue, there were lead weights everywhere on some guns. They are allowed to add weight up to the limit of 7.5 lbs.

The basic Edge without weights weighs 6.15 lbs., so almost 1.5 lbs. of additional weight can be added. What McCaslin did was create a weight plate that’s fitted to the shape of the gun and held in place with a large rubber o-ring. These plates are added as required and can go anywhere along the long axis of the rifle. Though my picture doesn’t show it, they can even be bolted to the butt. They go on and come off quickly.


These optional weight plates fit on the Edge frame and are held in place by large rubber o-rings.


The weight plates slide along the frame from muzzle to forearm.

Forearm
The forearm, which has an accessory rail built in the bottom, slides along the frame from the receiver to almost the muzzle. Most shooters will want it in close so they can triangulate the hold and offset the weight.

Well, that completes our cursory look at the Edge’s features. Next time, we’ll test the velocity.

Daisy 25 dating information – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Most of you don’t know this, but I receive many questions and comments on the older blogs. One of them, the one about the Daisy No. 25 pump-action BB gun, is particularly active, and the questions are almost always the same. They want to know which version of the gun they have. So, today I’m going to explain a few of the visual cues that are used to refine the dates of these guns. This will give me a page to which I can refer people in the future. With the comments we’ve had recently about the 25 versus the Red Ryder, I know this will appeal to more than just the hard-core collectors.

Even though this report will not be exhaustive, it will take more than one part to complete. I discovered that as I photographed the first several features and realized what I’d bitten off. Believe me, this will be a lot more informative than counting the grooves on the pump handle, which is about all we knew to do 20 years ago.

When I began collecting 25s, not a lot was known about them, or at least not a lot was written about them. A man by the name John Steed set about documenting 25s and all their characteristics in the mid 1990s, and he published a small booklet of facts so dry they will put most non-collectors to sleep. I base most of what I say on John’s work, but I also know that anything I state with certainty today can be overturned tomorrow. I’m giving you the best data I have, but we’re still learning about Daisys.

Also, you have to bear in mind that Daisy never threw away anything. After they made changes to a design, they would continue to use the old parts until they ran out. And, if a box of old parts was found a year later, there’s a good chance they found their way into the production cycle. So, we must be careful not to invent a new type of variation on the evidence of one gun. John Steed knew that, and I want you to keep it in mind, as well.

Daisy began making the No. 25 pump gun officially in 1914, but production really began in 1913–or at least that’s what my information tells me. The first variation was finished in fragile black nickel over silver nickel. The first gun is sometimes called a 1913 variation, though I just told you that was a year before Daisy officially began production.

The first gun has a couple characteristics that went away very soon after production began. By 1915, all these features had changed into something else. The black nickel went fast, as it was not a rugged finish. They still plated their guns with silver nickel, but a hot bath blue was the preferred finish, staring in 1914.


The front sight on this 1913 version of the No. 25 is adjustable from side to side. You can see how it slides, yet the metal is so tight that the blade doesn’t move once it’s in place. It’s a sort of reverse dovetail. This feature went away by 1916.


This front sight is on a very early short-throw lever No. 25. It was certainly made by 1927. The sight is spot-welded on the tube, as it would be for the remainder of the production run through 1986.

While the adjustable front sight is a good indicator of an early No. 25, the next feature is even more discriminating. Back in 1914, Daisy was not able to fold the outer tube of any of their BB guns sufficiently airtight so the compression chamber was sealed. They soft-soldered a metal patch to the underside of the gun. The patch runs from the beginning to the end of the compression chamber, including the spring tube that’s always behind the piston.


The raised piece of metal under the pump handle guide rod is a soldered patch that denotes an early gun.


The patch looks like this where the barrel meets the receiver.

In 1915, Daisy perfected the sheetmetal fold, and they dropped the labor-intensive solder patch. Any gun that doesn’t have the patch is a late 1915 or newer gun. If it has the patch, it can’t be any newer than 1915. But the black nickel finish went away in late 1914/early 1915; so together with the patch, the two point to a very early No. 25.


When Daisy learned how to fold metal and retain an airtight seal, the barrel patch was eliminated. This happened in 1915.

Long and short throw levers
In the beginning, the No. 25 pump lever reached out to within about six inches of the muzzle. As I have mentioned in the Red Ryder report, all BB guns of this era had significantly stronger mainsprings than they do today. Some younger kids had difficulty pumping the gun because of this, so in 1927, Daisy introduced what’s called the long-throw lever. The pump handle reaches out to within four inches of the muzzle, supposedly giving more leverage for cocking. I can’t feel a difference, but I’m an adult and my guns are all well broken-in by now. However, the length of the lever throw helps to date the gun.


This is the short-throw lever, made in 1927 and before.


This is the long-throw lever, made in 1927 and after. Notice that there are still five grooves on the pump handle.

Reinforcing rib
I told you this was going to be detailed. John Steed actually discovered this feature, to the best of my knowledge. The earliest guns did not have a reinforcing rib on the pump linkage, but in 1915 it was added. This feature, coupled with the solder patch and the black nickel finish, is one more proof of a real first variation No. 25.


The earliest pumps did not have a reinforcing rib punched into the sheetmetal pump linkage.


The reinforcement is obvious on the guns that have it. Guns without it were made in 1915 and earlier.

Wow, what a load of stuff. There’s more, too, so stay tuned for Part 2.

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