The airguns of my youth

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start, I wanted to tell you about a huge price reduction on the Gamo Viper Express Air Shotgun & Rifle. Pyramyd Air has dropped the price by $60. Get yours while supplies last. If you’ve got carpenter bees, this might do the trick!

Guest blogger
This is Alan’s first guest blog for us. He’s been a lover of air power from an early age. He’ll take us down memory lane today, and I’m sure this will bring up fresh childhood memories for many of you. Enjoy!

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them) and they must use proper English. We will edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

by Alan

Although my family lived in a major US city, both sets of my grandparents had farms in Central Illinois. And, growing up I spent most of my summers and school vacations there.

Firearms were still a way of life in that part of the country and had been for as long as anyone could remember. On my 10th birthday, my grandad presented me with what many boys our age dreamed of…my own Daisy BB gun.

I remember my excitement opening the box and finding the Model 1776 Golden Eagle. The Eagles’ peep site was designed to look like a rifle scope and the cool gold paint finish appealed to me. Without question, they made my gun better than my cousins’.  Our country was focused on the upcoming Bicentennial, making this model even more special to me.

Ownership or possession of the gun was transferred to me gradually after much safety training and a great deal of time shooting under adult supervision.

Looking back, one of my fondest thoughts surround the time I spent learning to shoot and handle the rifle with my grandfather, uncles and father. Even after I’d earned the right to shoot solo, many evenings were spent with the four of us sitting out front engaged in friendly shooting competitions. Cans were the target of the day, and I was the designated stacker. Since it was my gun, I was also encouraged with extra shots, and shooting advice.  Well, at least until I began to dominate the competitions. Pretty soon my Grandpa was stacking cans for extra shots and my uncle was disappearing when his turn came.

That Daisy kept me busy thousands of hours. Totally reliable, it just kept shooting. Chores were paid for in BBs. Out on the farm, my cousins and I learned the ground rules of group shooting and hunting of pests that would prep us for a future of game hunting and shooting clays.

As I began to outgrow the Daisy Golden Eagle, I had a great-uncle who invited us over for a fish-fry and to show me something very special he’d purchased. Uncle Ed liked firearms very much, and his interests included target shooting, small game hunting and shotgunning sports. He had Browning 28 gauges (to be sporting), custom 12 gauge over and unders (to win) and a number of pistols and revolvers that duly impressed me.

On that night, he made me wait until after dinner before unveiling his latest purchase. After all, if he didn’t, who would fry the fresh catfish and carp that he prided himself on? It was a big summer gathering, so we were eating out on the patio. After what seemed to be the longest dinner of my young life, Uncle Ed went into the house and returned several minutes later carrying some type of rifle. Wood-stocked and deeply blued, I was unfamiliar with it’s profile. Proudly handing it to me, he proclaimed that this was the Rolls-Royce of air rifles–the Sheridan Blue Streak.

This was rural Illinois, where Daisys and Crosmans were known items, but a high-quality pump-up pneumatic was something quite special.

The rest of the evening, we sat together at the bench in his backyard range (oh, those were the days!) and he went over its operation. Soon, we were shooting it together. We continued until it was too dark to go on. 

The Blue Streak remained Uncle Ed’s rifle for quite some time. Then, one day, after one of our many shooting sessions, he handed the Sheridan to me with the simple words,” I think this should be yours now.” I was elated but struggled to hide my emotions lest they undermine my new found maturity. I thanked him sincerely as one man to another, while inside my 14-year-old head I was jumping in the air screaming WooooHoooo!


The Sheridan Blue Streak was the crown jewel of airguns. Getting one from Uncle Ed as a gift when I was 14 was one of the highlights of my youth!

By this point in my life, my parents had moved out to the country and on to some acreage adjacent to my grandpa’s farm. I had lots of opportunities for shooting the Blue Streak. The .20 cal. pellets were more expensive and harder to come by than other airgun ammo, but as far as I was concerned it was worth it. After all, they looked more like “real” bullets than other pellets. And some claimed them to be optimal over a greater range of applications. So, they did posses a certain sophistication factor.

Back then most people didn’t have access to a chronograph, so power was often defined in penetration. The hard-hitting Daisy No. 25 pump was said to put a BB through a tin can, but the Sheridan did that and more with ease. 

In looking back over my shooting life, it was my Daisy BB gun and my family that taught me to love shooting. And it was my Great Uncle Ed and the Sheridan Blue Streak that taught me how to shoot.

Like many kids of that generation, I progressed to firearms and let airguns become a thing of my past. Then, one day, as a 40-year-old man, I met an airgun that would bring them back to the foreground! But that’s a different story.

31 Responses to “The airguns of my youth”

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB, off topic, but what is that stuff you call “Black Tar”. Also, is an internal vibration like a spring piston has a bad thing in a Multi-pump?

  • Anonymous Says:

    C’mon Alan!! What was the gun that brought you back all those years later??

    -Aaron

  • FRED Says:

    Anonymous,

    Black Tar is aN extremely heavy, viscous grease which is mainly used to quell the vibration and “twang” prevalent in spring piston guns. Because of it’s viscosity, it will slow down the piston travel somewhat and decrease absolute muzzle velocity but the gain in vibration-free shooting is judged to be more than worth it by most, if not all, air gunners. I know you can purchase the black tar at Jim Maccari’s website. He sells a sampler kit which includes a “white” tar and molybdenum disulfide grease. I don’t know if PA also sells it.

    As for a vibration in a multipump, the only springs I know of are the trigger and hammer/bolt springs and the twang or vibration from them should be insignificant.

    Fred

    word verification; adics – like we’re all airgun addicts?

  • Anonymous Says:

    Alan,

    great story. nicely told. thanks.

    I can relate to the return to airguns at around 40. I happened to stumble across my child hood crossman 760 ’bout 10 years ago in a box in storage. Pumped it up, fed it some bb’s and began keeping the mocking bird population down to bearable proportions.

    when it finally gave out I went “shopping” for a new gun. five purchases, three different types of guns and over $1000 later I wound up shooting one particularly irritating mocking bird yesterday with the only gun I have that is either not too loud, too powerful or set up for longer shots… yep, you guessed it! Crossman 760!

    BB,

    looks like the oil and some pumps did the trick, thanks for the advice.

    DSW

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    DSW,

    You’re welcome. Now, join with me a hundreds of others to spread the word.

    B.B.

  • Brody Says:

    Nice job alan.
    You made me feel as if i was there. I love stories of people when they were youger, and how they learned to shoot. My first experiance was a scary one. I was at my grandpas, and i was maybe 4, he asked if i wanted to shoot his
    .410 so i said yes enthusiastically. He held the gun for me, and i pulled the trigger….BANG. The gun all but knocked me over. To sum it, i didnt shoot a firearm for about 3 years. When i was 6 or so i got a Red Ryder for christmas. That was the end of airguns for me until i was 10. Thats when my parents got me a Daisy 880s. Then i thought that was as far as it goes, until i discovered airgun forums and blogs like this one unveiling the wonders of the airgun world. Then i purchased my Crosman Storm XT. Now i dont know what to get. lol.
    Brody

  • Fused Says:

    Thanks for the story Alan, I can also relate. Here I am 42 and excited about airguns again!

    Also, I seem to still be a day behind, but I just had a ‘you might be an airgunner if..’ moment. I was sending a link to a product specification on a project I’m working on and accidentally sent them the link to this forum! Whoops, got airguns on the brain again.

  • CJr Says:

    What a super lifetime experience!! Based on my perceived popularity of airguns today I think it is still going on in other families, too. I believe one of the things it takes to make a responsible shooter is a family that cares and you were fortunate to have that kind of family.

    I do hope you continue with “that different story”. I also hope you and others on this blog get the opportunity to pass that experience on to our younger folks. I am hard pressed to imagine anything more special to a kid than to be handed an air rifle by an adult and taught how to use it properly.

    Good post!

    -C

  • Richard Says:

    Great job Alan!

    I too got back into airgunning in my forties when my boys were coming of age and an ongoing problem with squirrels. A wondeful solution and pastime for all. I hope you have children that you can create some fond memories with also. The guns that I dusted off were my trusty 1377 and model 38T revolver. The 38T needed a rebuild but the 1377 just needed cleaning and oiling. They both shoot as great as the day I got them. Thanks for the great story!!

    Rich

  • Anonymous Says:

    Alan,

    Enjoyed your story. This sounds pretty close to ideal as a way to learn about guns and have fun across the generations. Based on my excitement at receiving various non-functioning toy guns, I can only imagine the feeling of getting a working one. I could see myself as the ideal uncle for my nieces except that their mother is anti-gun, but I’ll play the same role using something else.

    All, while trolling the Air Arms site and admiring their pcps–they even have a field target version of their target rifle–I came across an alarming bit of news. The company claims that when using a hand pump, even the tiniest bit of dust in the valves can cause a leak. So, the company suggests cleaning the valves for every fill or using a scuba tank instead. Auggh. I was working my way up to the hassle of pumping to refill the rifle; this is too much. So, it’s back to the springers.

    Wayne, I was thinking that with your private range, you have some great opportunities. No public ranges that I know of permit rapid fire, but you can go wild with your firearms as well as air guns.

    Matt61

  • CJr Says:

    Matt,
    We may need clarification from BB on this before writing PCPs off. Do they say what “cleaning the valves” entails? Also, is seems like, on this blog, we don’t hear THAT much about leaky PCP valves. I’ve heard a couple complaints but it doesn’t seem rampant. Could the AA statement be a CYA thing?
    -C

  • Anonymous Says:

    Say, has anyone ever tried a dab of black tar on a gun like the Sheridan you describe? It does have a spring in it after all, and the pellet does spend time in the barrel after it picks up the spring’s vibes…..

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Black tar has no application on a multi-pump pneumatic. It’s for taming vibration, which multi-pumps don’t have. The 12-pound hammer spring does not vibrate like a 150-pound spring piston spring does.

    B.B.

  • E in V Says:

    Good little story.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Thanks to all of you for your kind comments about my story. I’ve followed this blog for years and I’m always impressed by the people associated with it. Thank you also to B.B. and Edith for giving me the chance. I’ll be submitting another post soon, (more technical though.)

    Hopefully some of you will find value in it as well (if I’m lucky enough to get it posted that is.)

    Thanks again for all of your kind words.

    Alan

  • JP Says:

    BB and Fred, you guys got a “proper” name for the tar is called, or is it hand-mixed stuff? Perhaps a link to the website mentioned. As for anon’s multi-pump vibration, well, my Crosman Pumpmaster 66 has an internal vibration during fire, but it never affects accuracy, and the thing’s been a reliable rifle. I’d say if it doesn’t fall apart then it’s probably nothing. JP

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    JP,

    Start with open gear lubricant at a tractor supply or Grange store and go from there.

    B.B.

  • CJr Says:

    JP,
    The twang is just annoying more than anything else but also if it can be smoothed out accuracy has to improve. Which reminds me….

    I got a GAMO Recon from PA yesterday. I bought it for my grandkids to use because I shot it at the airgun range at the NRA gun show in Phoenix and it seemed like a nice, compact, easy to cock springer with virtually no twang. Well three out of four ain’t bad, except in this case. My gun has a very loud spring twang to it that was not on the test gun. I don’t know if this is because the range gun was customized (I hope this is not the case because people are probably making buy decisions like me when they try them out) or the gun was well broken in. Does anyone else have one of these that they can report on?

    -C

  • Anonymous Says:

    CJr,

    The guns on the airgun range were stock. If you’re displeased with a gun you just bought, Pyramyd Air will let you return it within 30 days of purchase.

    Edith (Mrs. B.B.)

  • Anonymous Says:

    Chuck,

    You’re right that the hand pump issue deserves other opinions. Anyone out there use hand pumps? It seems like most pcp users move quickly to a scuba tank. Here is the text about hand pumps from the AA site:

    “With the increasingly popular use of hand pumps there has been a corresponding increase in filling and firing valve leakages. It must be remembered that at the working pressures that all pcp’s are operating at, the smallest piece of dust on the valve seats will cause a leak.

    Although not wanting to get involved with the debate on which is the best form of charging, it has to be said that one of the major advantages of the scuba tank is the highly filtered and contaminate free air it provides. The fact that scuba tanks are used to sustain life, requires that the air that goes into them is free from anything that may endanger the health of the user, so what’s good for human lungs should be good for the inside of your air rifle too !
    Conversely the hand pump is infinitely more convenient, as long as a bit of physical effort is not considered out of the question.
    So what can be done about potential problems ?

    * Choose a pump that has the best built-in filtering system. This will give you the best chance to have similar quality air to that from a scuba tank.

    * Clean both parts of the snap connector regularly, even consider before each fill

    * Don’t let the filling hose dangle on the ground (most pumps have the hose near to ground level, perfect for picking-up dust and grit).

    * Open the bleed valve regularly during fills to release excess moisture (gives you a chance to take a breather as well).

    Knowing that we will get asked to recommend a pump, have a look at url. Some while ago a famous British pump manufacturer and Air Arms consulted on a pump that would address the kind of problems mentioned above. Eventually Hill Pumps came up with a product that , in our opinion, pumps better than any other but more importantly has an efficient, replaceable filter element.

    (Air Arms has no financial or other incentive to recommending this product.)”

    On another note, I think that the idea of distributing employee reviews which I just received by email is a great one. Who other than B.B. is better-qualified to talk about PA’s stock. All of the recommendations made sense. Stacey Greene’s favorite, the Sumatra 2500, sounds like it equals the performance of both the Marauder and the S410. However, the noise is the big disqualifier.

    I believe that the big PA moving sale is this weekend. It reminds me of the film Quest for Fire about cavemen 80,000 years ago. Presenting cavemen in the raw–literally and figuratively–was apparently supposed to give us a new look at ourselves. (The scenes of them wrinkling their brows over simple technology strikes a chord with me.) At one point, a couple of what you might call the hero cavemen are escaping at night from a camp of more advanced people. They have never seen the innovation of shaped spears with fire-hardened tips, so they attempt to steal as many as they can. They’re almost doubled over with the weight and look like porcupines, and they wake up one of the advanced people. This individual thinks they look ridiculous and starts laughing–another advanced behavior–which the heroes respond to by laying him out with one of their sticks. Whamo. And they collect a few more before going over the hill. This is how I would feel about the PA sale. Have fun to those who can attend.

    Matt61

  • wayne Says:

    Matt61, and all..

    Don’t forget moisture as an issue as well as dirt… over time you can have a cup of water sloshing around in your air tank!!

    Scuba tank air is dry, clean and EASY!!!!! EASY!!!!

    Did I mention EASY!

    A Tank is less than a good pump .. to fill the tank should cost $5.00.. get two and drop off the empty and pick up the full one.. giving your scuba shop the time to fill they need.. (sometimes it’s too hot to turn on the compressor.. or their too busy selling a $3,000 outfit, to stop and fill a $5.00 scuba tank sale!!!).. so be nice to the shop and get two tanks!!

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  • kevin Says:

    Matt61,

    I hand pumped my AA S410 for almost 3 months. Filled it from empty once and topped it off maybe 40 times. Not an enormous amount of effort to fill to 200 bar but a distraction when I would rather be shooting.

    IF you bleed your valve quickly after filling I’ve read where many people have filled pcp’s with hand pumps for years without problems. Keep your hose and adapter clean and O rings lubed. Dirt has caused more problems in pcp’s than moisture from pumping. Dry air in a scuba or carbon fiber tank is not only easier but gives me a little piece of mind over moisture.

    If you’re looking for a reason not to enter the pcp world keep looking. In my opinion, using a hand pump to fill your pcp is not the reason to stay away from a pcp.

    kevin

  • A.R. Tinkerer Says:

    Alan,

    Nice article! I wish I could express my thoughts in writing as well as some of you!

    NiT0FiSh,

    The capitals, NTFS, in your name wouldn't have anything to do with the Windows file system, would it? I called my wife in town today and ask her to pick up the Nuts & Volts issue for me! Unfortunately the June issue isn't on the shelves yet.

    Matt61, CJr & Wayne,

    SCUBA tanks don't seem practical for me. We live about an hour from the nearest fill. That is why I love the Discovery (pistol that is). Only 2000 PSI to fill (easy with a hand pump) and there is a filter built into its fill adapter. I wonder if the Marauder has the same built-in filter?

    Tinkerer
    (.22 multi-shot)

  • BG_Farmer Says:

    The Nuts & Volts approach does seem superior to a commercial chronograph in using IR LED's and photodetectors. Didn't look at his Gerbers yet to see how he layed it out, but with 13 separate PCB's, the cost could be a surprise. If anyone wants to try it but has trouble with the PCB's, etc., let me know, and I might be able to help. Assembly looks like all through hole, which is good and easy for a home project.

  • FRED Says:

    If your pneumatics are vibrating or you think they are, I would suggest checking to make sure all visible screws, nuts and bolts are tight. Maybe you’re picking up some resonance in a plastic stock or a loose stock. Anon, see if you can shoot someone’s break barrel spring piston rifle so you will have a basis of comparison between your pneumatic and a spring piston. My Silver Streak is a joy to shoot but a PIA to pump up after 6 or 8 pellets have been shot.

  • Albert Says:

    Hi B.B. Pelletier,

    This might be off topic…hope to get some advice from you on my Sumatra and related projectiles.

    In the past, I have read your blog and learned about the differences between pellets and bullets. It is very informative and explanatory. I have a very clear idea about the difference between the two.

    Anyway, since I have heard that Sumatra's have a slightly larger bore than most other brand of air rifles, I am really curious about some the possibility of shooting the black powder .22 bullets. The following is the link:

    http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/templates/links/link.jsp;jsessionid=YOBADQGFNC1OHLAQBBJCCN3MCAEFGIWE?id=0003223212567a&type=product&cmCat=perf&rid=0180101070502&xpid=k17401&cm_ven=Performics&cm_cat=Affiliate%2Dclick&cm_pla=Nextag&cm_ite=DDI%20Link&afsrc=1&_requestid=104486&_requestid=104201

    One of the reviews (click the reivews link to see) was written by an airgunner who used the bullet with good results. The following is his comment:

    "22 cal black powder bullet, December 30, 2008
    By Back40rob from Stanford, ky

    "This bullet shoots really well in my Evanix AR6 air rifle. It penetrates a 2×4 at 20 yards and still holds it mass well. I would recommend this round in a PCP air rifle for hunting. It groups well out to 50 yards and further. I have made shots out to 75 yards."

    My guess is that this 30 grain bullet might be .223 in diameter. And I have heard that the 32 grain Eun Jin pellet has a diameter between .225 and .227. My test confirmed that the 32 grain Eun Jin pellet (which is larger in diameter from what I heard) is more accurate than the 28 grain version. Also, the twist rate of a .22 short rifle (1:20 – 1:24 twist rate) seems to be very close to that of the Sumatra (1:18 twist.) The velocity of the 28 grain pellet is very close to that of the .22 short ammunition as well (1030 ft/s.) So, it sounds like it might work for my Sumatra (380 cc tank, 18 power level version.) I would like to get your expert advice on the possibility of shooting this bullet from my Sumatra.

    Your kind help is much appreciated!

    Albert

  • CJr Says:

    Edith,
    Thanks for the heads up on PA return policy. However, I’m not ready to let go of the Recon, yet.

    In spite of the spring vibration I still had fun shooting it and I think the kids will too. Hopefully it will quiet down like the one at the show. If not I might look for some tar.

    I’m definitely going to look into the GERT trigger. I like the current two stage trigger except for me at fire time my finger is pressing on the point of the trigger because of its angle.

    Both of these things: the trigger and the spring noise, were covered in BB’s post on the Recon back in July 2008 so I can’t say I wasn’t aware (warned) of them.

    Maybe the show gun seemed quieter because of all the other distractions around me at the time.

    I think the cocking effort will make it a good break barrel for the kids to learn on if they are strong enough to cock it. I think they will be because I think the cocking function of the Recon break barrel has better leverage than the cocking handle on the 953. The 953 has an 18lb effort while the Recon has 16lb but the ergonomics is very different as well. We’ll see. The IZH-61 has only 10lb and they handle it with ease plus it has better leverage than the 953 lever, also.

    The Recon can be cocked by having the stock in their lap while pulling the barrel down towards their lap and you can use both hands of need be. You’re using arm and shoulder muscles.

    The 953 it seems they have the gun in one hand and the lever in the other and they’re squeezing the two together using pectoral muscles which in an 11 yr old aren’t very developed. Also, if they aren’t careful, they can get their hand caught between when the two snap together.

    -C

  • Bob from OZ Says:

    G’day
    Nice yarn Alan. I hope it reminds BB that he promised an article on the breakdown of a Daisy some time back.
    Cheers Bob

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Albert,

    A Sumatra has an airgun bore–not a rimfire bore (.223). Those bullets won’t work well if they are .223.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bob,

    G’day mate! I have the Daisy breakdown report on the calendar. The problem is I’m traveling a lot these days, so I’m doing blogs that don’t take much time.

    I’ll get on it.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Fred of the vibrating pneumatics:
    I didn’t assume vibration was the cause of an accuracy problem. I just figured that since you feel a bit of a jolt if you dry fire a pneumatic, there was a hair of a chance that the accuracy would improve.

    In addition to the lighter spring and hammer, though, I believe the solid attachment of the barrel to the pump tube and stock cuts vibration.

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