Archive for June 2010
by B.B. Pelletier
When I came home from the hospital, all my internet business was in disarray. Edith had been keeping up with my email, but she hadn’t known about the various accounts I have, nor did she have the time to look at them. One of these was the Texas Gun Trader, an online in-state trading place where I meet others to buy and sell firearms. I had over 1,400 guns to look at!
One of those listings was a Webley Junior pistol, which caught my eye. It was priced close to the top of the market, but it seemed to be in very nice condition. So, I contacted the seller down near Houston and we negotiated. Normally, I meet the seller face-to-face, but in my current condition that was impossible, so we worked out a deal to ship the gun. Being an airgun, this was entirely legal.
When the pistol arrived, I had the pleasant surprise that the gun was in better cosmetic condition than I had imagined. The seller had posted photos, but a Webley pistol is all black and difficult to show any detail. I did the deal on trust that they were telling me the truth, and I feel they understated the fine condition. That made me very happy, because a vintage gun in beautiful condition always retains its value.
Edith had reprinted my Webley Junior article from Airgun Revue #6 in the blog while I was in the hospital, but that report was based on my brief examination of a Junior more than 10 years ago. Now, I own one, and can test it any way that I like. I especially want to try it with darts, for which it is ideally suited.
My new air pistol is a post-war Junior, where the one reported in May was a pre-war gun. And it’s a very early version of the post-war gun, being made sometime between 1946 and about 1950.
The clues to the age of my gun are the lack of an adjustable rear sight and the grips. From 1946 to ’51, the Junior grip had an extra 1/4″ projection at the top. Gordon Bruce thought it might have been a thumbrest, but there’s no proof. Also, the checkering was coarse at first and finer in the later versions.
The book says the Junior is for children, but I will confirm that the “kids” are probably in their teens because it isn’t that easy to cock the gun, even for an adult. The price was the lowest of the Webley line, and most Juniors like mine have smoothbore barrels. Hence, my interest in shooting darts.
The frame is malleable cast iron, made outside the Webley plant but machined by Webley. That’s why the finish appears so different between the frame and the spring tube, which is high-quality steel.
I’ll enjoy getting to know this little (but heavy!) air pistol. I purposely have not yet fired it, so you and I will be only hours apart as I discover what kind of a gun I have.
When I returned from the hospital, a group of friends presented me with a fine single-action revolver. I hope to get to the range to shoot it one of these days, but I thought I’d share it with you today.
Next time, we’ll test the Junior’s velocity.
by B.B. Pelletier
Testing and photos by Earl McDonald
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of our test Beeman R9. Remember, Mac is testing this at his house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He’s shooting from inside his garage out into the wood line at the side of his house. By doing it this way, he can chronograph the shot as well as shoot at the target at the same time.
This past Sunday, he was testing another rifle for us and stepped on an underground hornet’s nest. I don’t know if they were actual hornets, but they sure acted like it. The aggressive black and white wasps stung him a dozen times before he could get away.
Mac also wanted me to tell you that this new restyled R9 has a slimmer forearm. Instead of the bull-nosed R1 forearm, the new R9 forearm tapers up after the stock screws. You can see this in the detailed photos on this website. He says he likes the new style better than the old. It makes the rifle more svelte.
Accuracy testing was at 30 yards, with the forearm resting on his open palm at the balance point of the rifle. The scope was set at its maximum magnification of 12x. All groups were 10 shots.
Crosman Premier 10.5-grain pellets grouped okay but had a few fliers. That may have been due to irregular pellets, because Mac didn’t sort pellets for this test.
The heavy Premier looked as though it wanted to shoot, but there were some fliers. Perhaps sorting would eliminate these.
With the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet, the groups were tight and there were no fliers. The rifle was still burning oil that could be smelled, but there were no detonations during accuracy testing.
With Premier lites, the R9 grouped 10 in 0.67″. That’s not too shabby for 30 yards.
And the lightweight RWS Hobby pellets went all over the place. Not a good pellet for this R9!
The light Hobby was not accurate in the test rifle.
The most accurate pellet in the test was the heavy Beeman Kodiak, by a slim margin over the Premier lites. This pellet also gave good performance in the velocity test, so it should always be considered for this rifle. Remember, H&N Baracudas are the same pellet by another name.
The heavyweight Kodiak pellet was the most accurate in this test, grouping as tight as 0.65″.
by B.B. Pelletier
Matt61 asked how many Beeman R-type airguns there were last Friday, because he’d never heard of the R8 model I’m currently testing. His question reminded me how Dennis Quackenbush is always going on about the lack of historical documentation of the airgun hobby. Matt’s question epitomizes this. So, I figured a short history was in order. This should also prove interesting to our readers outside the U.S. who may not know the Beeman name as well as we do. I can’t tell the Beeman story without including the history of Air Rifle Headquarters, which preceded it by a decade. This is really the story of the beginning of precision adult airguns in the U.S.
It began in the 1960s
The importation of European airguns and ammunition into the U.S. had been spotty up to the decade of the 1960s. Back in the 1930s and ’40s, Stoeger had imported J.G. Anschütz, Haenel, Diana, Webley and perhaps a few others, but they lacked the marketing push to popularize them. Who, in 1940, was going to spend $70 for a single-shot Peerless (Diana model 58) air rifle they had never heard of when a sleek Winchester model 61 pump .22 cost just $24.87? Besides, in 1940, war loomed on the horizon and German products were not that popular in this country, so the time was not yet right. After the war was over, though, was a different story.
In the very early 1960s, Robert Law became aware of the high quality of European airguns and pellets. He formed the company known as Air Rifle Headquarters in Grantsville, West Virginia, and started importing and selling these products through the mail.
But he did something extra that Stoeger never attempted, and it made all the difference in the world. He borrowed a page from the marketing plan of George L. Herter and told the detailed story of the airguns he was offering. He told you why his $150 FWB breakbarrel was far superior to the Sheridan Blue Streak, which he sold for $42.00. He gave you numerous reasons to spend almost four times the money for the same type of product. If he were still in business today, I bet he would have a blog very much like this one.
Law produced a catalog and other printed materials that showered the buyer with interesting information about fine European airguns and pellets. His catalogues are collector items today, selling for $20 and up. They still fascinate the collector with the history of the first real sales campaign for precision airguns in the U.S.
These catalogs were loaded with articles — not touting any specific airgun but, instead, educating the airgunner in general. Another product he produced were Air Rifle Monthly pamphlets that dealt with specific airguns. How he managed to find the time to do all he did I will never know, but from the volume of publications his company published, it’s clear that the man with the Mo Howard haircut knew how to prioritize.
Law also created better owners’ manuals than those supplied by the manufacturers, and his were supplied with the gun at the sale.
Of course, all these educational materials were also selling products, as the enthusiast learned more and more about his airgun. Eventually, he became hooked and had to try the tuneups he read about in the pamphlets.
In the early years, Law also included a lot of sex in his catalog. There were many pages of scantily-clad lovelies touting the guns. There were also several photos of the pretty ARH female employees in miniskirts filling orders in the shipping department. There must have been complaints, though, because by 1974 the catalogs dropped this practice entirely.
The vision of modern airgunning
Law was also a visionary. He coined the term “accurized” and added value to his guns through tuning both before and after the sale. He also mounted scopes on airguns at a time when it was considered very problematic. The scopes of his day broke from the recoil of the spring rifles he sold, so he searched far and wide for models that could take the strain.
ARH, as it was known, had some special models of its own. These were guns that they customized to the nth degree, including fancy stocks, scopes, accurizing and other added perks. The Feinwerkbau F12 came before the model 124 and was a model 121. ARH sold it as-is for $144.50 in 1973. But when they accurized it and added their own electric guitar-style walnut stock, it became the model F120 and the price went to $234.50. I have seen but one of these rifles in my life. It was at the Roanoke airgun expo a few years ago, and I was stunned by the sheer size of the wood stock. They made the forearm so deep that there’s no longer a cocking slot. There is sufficient room inside the forearm to contain the cocking link as it cycles through its arc.
They also sold some American airguns. For example, they sold the Smith & Wesson 78G and 79G, and they did it their way. They boosted velocity to a guaranteed 500+ f.p.s. in the .177 79G.
Air Rifle Headquarters lasted from about 1963 until 1979. Then, it closed its doors and has been talked about in airgun circles ever since. Probably one reason they folded their tent was that a new company — Beeman Precision Airguns — started in California in the early 1970s. However, the name lives on, as Jim Maccari calls his company Air Rifle Headquarters.
Next time, I’ll cycle you through the Beeman history and finally answer Matt’s question of how many R-type guns there are.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before I get started today, I’d like to remind all you BB gun collectors that the annual Daisy Get Together is coming up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on August 22. It’s open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and admission is $2. If that’s not the best deal for an airgun show, I’d like to know what is. This is an advanced show, where the finest collectible BB guns in existence may possibly turn up.
Now, on to today’s report. Wacky Wayne prompted this one. He asked a question about the R8 earlier this week; and, as I had recently acquired one, I thought it was time to share. Plus, I like giving you guys something interesting to chew on over the weekend.
The Beeman R8 was imported and sold by Beeman from 1983 through 1997. I had no idea it was that old or lasted so long until I looked it up in the new Blue Book of Airguns, 8th Edition. It was made in .177 only and produced 720 f.p.s. — presumably with lightweight pellets. I believe it was a kissing cousin of the Weihrauch HW50 of the day. It had Beeman R1 styling, which meant checkering on the pistol grip, a stock that extended to the end of the baseblock and a sharp contour to the cheekpiece. At 7.1 lbs., it was a slightly bigger brother to the R7.
As you can see from the picture, my R8 isn’t 100 percent stock. In fact, it was extensively re-worked. Besides the stock, which I’ll address in a moment, the action has all-new Maccari internals. It was tuned for smoothness but still has a powerful mainspring. The spring guide and top hat are custom, and the compression tube was burnished with moly for slickness. The piston seal is a Wasp.
The stock is Tyrolean but with an important difference. It’s been thinned and canted to the left to align the shooter’s eye with the scope. Often, the deeply cupped cheekpiece pushes your head to the left, making acquisition of the sight a chore, but this one comes up almost like an upland shotgun. That and the flat buttpad will help when benching the rifle. This rifle was created specifically for offhand mini-sniping.
Maccari supplied the shaped, high-grade, curly maple stock that was then reduced in thickness, sanded and stained with nitric acid. Eight coats of Permalyn were applied, then sanded and waxed to give the luster you see here.
The Beeman R8 has a two-piece, articulated cocking link that allows the cocking slot at the bottom of the forearm to be very short. That should make the firing cycle smoother.
The scope is also quite special. It’s a Burris Timberline 4.5-14×32 without AO but clear at max magnification at 21 feet. It is an exceptional optic, and I hope to have more to say about it as I test the rifle for accuracy.
Although I currently need to use two hands to cock a 124 (weakened from my hospital stay), I can cock this one with one hand — easily. We’ll look at velocity next.
by B.B. Pelletier
Testing and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald
Let’s continue our look at the Beeman R9 rifle. Today we’ll do velocity. And this will be interesting, because the rifle Mac was sent to test had a 10-for-$10 chronograph ticket included. So, we’ll compare Mac’s results with those from Pyramyd Air.
If you read the 10-for-$10 pop-up, you’ll see that Pyramyd warns you that the first 150 shots may be erratic. So, that has to be factored into this comparison. The ticket that came with this rifle measured H&N Baracudas at 697 to 741. Let’s see how that sits with Mac’s test.
Mac shot Beeman Kodiaks instead of H&N Baracudas (it’s the same pellet). He noted that they fit the breech firmly and consistently. They averaged 732 f.p.s. with a 23 f.p.s. velocity spread. That closely corresponds with the Pyramyd results. The average muzzle energy was 12.31 foot pounds.
Crosman Premier heavies
The Crosman Premier 10.5-grain pellet fit the breech very tight and is not recommended for the R9 — at least not this one. It averaged 679 f.p.s. with a 17 f.p.s. total velocity spread. The average muzzle energy was 10.74 foot pounds.
Crosman Premier lites
The smaller 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet fit the breech very well and averaged 816 f.p.s. with a total spread of 39 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy worked out to 11.64 foot pounds.
The lightweight 7-grain RWS Hobby fit the breech quite well and averaged 885 f.p.s. The spread was 25 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 12.19 foot-pounds.
What we’ve learned
First, we learned that the R9 is not a 1,000 f.p.s. air rifle. Weihrauch never intended it to be because of the harshness they experienced with the R10. Second, we’ve seen that, for some reason, this rifle really likes Beeman Kodiaks/H&N Baracudas. In my experience, that’s unusual for a gun in the 12 foot-pound range, but it’s also the reason we test as many pellets as we can.
Mac measured the trigger-pull at a crisp 29 oz. There was practically no variation from shot to shot, which is exactly what we expect from a Rekord trigger. The cocking is smooth and quiet, and, as noted yesterday, the firing behavior is dead calm. Between shooting at paper targets, Mac plinked at a 12-oz. water bottle set out at 30 yards and reports that the R9 is delightful offhand. In his words, it’s a very easy gun to shoot.
Next, we’ll look at accuracy and the Bushnell scope that comes with this package.
by B.B. Pelletier
Testing and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald
I’m going to finish this report today. From the comments, I sense that you guys are tired of BB pistols. But this SA 177 is such a great performer that its story deserves to be told in full.
You’ll remember from Monday’s blog that this gun gets 100 shots per charge. What Mac did was shoot targets with 20 shots per target from shot 1 to 100. I’ll show you the beginning, middle and ending targets and tell you about the others, because there isn’t a nickel’s worth of variation between any of them.
Mac used Daisy zinc-plated BBs for this test. The first target contains shots 1 through 20 and was shot as double taps. What that means is Mac raised the pistol, aimed and fired two shots in quick succession before lowering the gun again. Double taps test the influence that the trigger-pull has on accuracy. All shooting was done at 15 feet.
Well, I guess the heavy trigger doesn’t affect accuracy one bit! The pistol grouped amazingly well for a double-action-only trigger. I’ve tested plenty of BB guns that couldn’t do as well with deliberate aimed shots.
Okay, shots 21-40 were deliberate and just as tight. I’ll show you shots 41-60, which were also fired deliberately — one shot at a time with a 10-second delay between.
Final 20 shots
The final shots were 81 through 100, and they went to the same point of impact as the first 20. In fact, if Mac had left one target up for all 100 shots, the black bull would have nearly been removed.
Mac then changed CO2 cartridges and shot 20 more shots rapid-fire with no pause between shots. The group opened up a little, but remained centered on the target.
A different sight
Actually, it isn’t a sight at all. It’s a laser designator. But at close range, it works just like a sight. Put the glowing red dot on target and shoot.
Mac mounted the Walther NightHunter combination laser and tactical flashlight on the rail the gun provides and proceeded to shoot more groups. This equipment costs as much as the gun, but if you want good results, use good equipment.
Bottom line: the SA 177 is one heck of a BB pistol. It wants to shoot to the point of aim, and it’s as reliable as can be. If you’re in the market for a fast-action gun, keep this one in mind!
by B.B. Pelletier
Testing and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald
For those who have enjoyed the fine work done by Mac while I was in the hospital, there’s good news. He’ll continue to test some of the guns for us for a while. Right now, he’s testing a group of springers for me, and today we’ll begin with a look at the Beeman R9 Elite Series.
The R9 is an evolutionary spring rifle that descended from the Beeman R10. The R10 was billed as the “Son of the R1″ by Dr. Beeman and was a breakbarrel that reproduced the factory power of the R1 while being significantly lighter and therefore handier. The R1 is a huge rifle, and many people welcomed the loss of a couple pounds of weight in a 1,000 f.p.s. breakbarrel.
Of course, I’m talking about the time (1986-1995) when 1,000 f.p.s. was new and novel and not available in every new design that hit the market. The main difference between the R1 and R10, besides the size, was the fact that the R10 came to you pretty hot. Tuning couldn’t draw much more from it, where the R1 was the building block for much more powerful air rifles.
But the R10 was expensive to produce. The tubing diameter was thinner than the R1′s tube, making machining more critical. So, Weihrauch sought to simplify the design to make it easier to produce. Also, many R10s were very buzzy and ragged because the gun was so close to its maximum. In the rifle that followed, some performance was sacrificed for smoothness. Enter the R9.
The R9 has thin-wall tubing and doesn’t use the same threaded end cap of the other R-series rifles. Instead, the end cap slides inside the tube and is held by four special tabbed pins. It makes powerplant disassembly quite different from the R1.
Don’t crush the tube
The thin tube causes shooters to take one precaution that isn’t required on other R-series rifles. If you tighten the scope bases too tight, you’ll temporarily squeeze the tube into an oval. (BKL scope mounts aren’t recommended). This becomes apparent when you cock the rifle and can feel the mainspring bumping past the oval section as each coil slides by. I’ve done this in the past, and Mac experienced it during this test. This isn’t permanent, though. Loosen the clamps, and the tube springs back to round. But there are three vertical holes on top of the spring tube for a positive scope stop, so this should never be a problem.
Mac tested the Beeman R9 Elite Series Combo, which is the rifle that comes mounted with a Bushnell Banner 4-12x40AO wide-angle scope in Sportsmatch rings. He got one that had the 10 for $10 testing. When I do the velocity report, we’ll compare Pyramyd Air’s numbers to Mac’s. He noticed that the Sportsmatch rings on the gun he’s testing are different than the rings pictured on the PA website. Those look like Leapers rings. We’ve asked Pyramyd Air to look into it and update their images if the mounts are different for the guns they currently have in stock.
The rifle with scope weighs around 9 lbs. or about what an R1 weighs without sights. And speaking of sights, the R9 doesn’t come with them any more so the scope is needed. There’s no easy way to mount open sights on this gun. The muzzlebrake would have to be removed, and you’d have to find a way to attach the front sight to the barrel. Not an easy proposition! There are no provisions for a rear sight, so don’t buy the rifle if open sights are important to you.
The overall length of the rifle is 42.75 inches with a barrel of 16.50 inches. That includes the length of the muzzlebrake. The pull is a manly 14.50 inches.
The stock is evenly finished, allowing the beech grain to show. The checkering is now pressed instead of cut. The metal is deeply blued with no flaws.
The shape of the stock makes the rifle fully ambidextrous. There’s no cheekpiece on either side.
Firing behavior is dead calm. Mac says it feels like a tuned action. No twang or buzz, just a solid stop. The Rekord trigger breaks as crisply as ever, which is to say like a glass rod.
Beeman plated both the aluminum trigger blade and the adjustment screw behind it with gold. That contrasts well with the rest of the finish.
Overall, Mac likes the new R9. The main changes from the past are the lack of open sights and the pressed checkering instead of cut. Next, we’ll report velocity.