Archive for January 2011

Best engineering practices for airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

While installing a scope the other day, I encountered the same problem that’s bothered me for years with scope mounts. How come the manufacturers make them to use three different-sized Allen screws when it would be just as easy to design them to use only one size screw all around? That way, only a single Allen wrench would be required to install the mounts and to mount the scope. That got me thinking about airgun design in general. Why is it that most manufacturers haven’t got a clue as to how their customers will use their guns? Most of us simply speculate that that is the case, but I’ve talked to enough manufacturers and engineers to know that it’s true.

What is needed, I think, is a handbook of best engineering practices that can be followed when designing airguns so foolish mistakes are never made. It would be a tutorial for the newer designers and a place to record the institutional memory for those with experience in the field.

Since there’s no way such a manual will ever be compiled by a manufacturer, I thought it would be useful if the readers of this blog could pool their experience and create one. We would share it with anyone interested in it. Who knows? It could ultimately help someone design an airgun the way we think they should. Even if nobody ever reads it beyond us, it’ll be a fun thing to do.

So, today I’m going to propose a few design practices that I think would be helpful to airgun designers. You’ll quickly see that these “practices” are not specific instructions. They’re more like the corporate values of our hypothetical design team. You can comment on them and submit some practices of your own. I’ll copy the practices you submit and paste them into a document for the record. With the level of expertise available in our readership pool, we might come up with an interesting read.

I can’t think of a good way to categorize these practices yet, so I’ll just write them down as they come to me. When there’s a larger body of them, perhaps some order may be suggested.

1. Use fasteners of common size whenever feasible.
Common-size fasteners reduce the number of tools needed to work on a gun, plus they simplify the supply chain. Common size refers to the size of the tool needed to tighten the fastener, as well as the thread pitch and count and the diameter of the shank. Obviously, the length of the fastener shank depends on the application; but, whenever possible; that should be kept standard, too.

2. Select materials that are understressed for the application.
Do not select a material that only meets the performance requirement, but one that exceeds it. For example, do not use a seal that seals only when it’s fresh and new, but one that still seals a long time after it’s put into operation. As an example, a seal with a lower durometer rating may work well when new, but over time it may deform due to its softness, while a seal with a higher rating will continue to hold its shape and work much longer. Or, a synthetic part may be barely adequate for the application, while a metal receiver would continue to function for a much longer time. If you know beforehand that you’ll be building the receiver out of metal, you can design it to require less fabrication.

For this practice to work in the real world, we need to be practical. If a synthetic receiver, for example, costs $3 to manufacture or purchase, while a steel receiver would cost $14 with an added cost of $7 of overhead expense (when you make it rather than buy it you have to pay the workforce and amortize the tooling into the cost). It makes sense to go with the synthetic receiver because any cost in manufacturing has to be multiplied at least five times to allow room for wholesale tiers and profit. When the cost is very close, I’m suggesting to go with longevity over cost, alone.

Okay, now I’m going to get up on my soapbox. If I owned a manufacturing company and someone who worked for me uttered the phrase “build to a price” I would be extremely angry. As far as I’m concerned, anything that’s “built to a price” is made by bottom-feeders who manufacture products for landfills. As long as I’m in business to make things, I want them to be the best that I can make them. However, I’m not foolish about this. I would build rifles like the Bronco, for example, instead of something even cheaper that shoots twice as fast for the limited time that it works. The
Bronco is a nice air rifle, but it doesn’t have a Rekord trigger or a Lothar Walther barrel, so it’s still very affordable. It’s a good package of performance that should last for centuries rather than months. I recognize that the Bronco won’t thrill the armchair enthusiasts with useless high velocity, but neither will it turn off thousands of potential newcomers to airgunning with crude performance that quickly sours their opinion of the whole hobby. There — I’ve said my piece and am now stepping down from my soapbox.

3. When designing guns to use common platforms, invest more time designing those platforms to adapt to as many applications as possible.
Time spent in up-front engineering pays huge dividends downstream when no additional work needs to be done to make significant changes. In other words, if you’re designing a single-shot action, do so with an eye toward adding a repeating function later on.

4. Have your design team and marketing team test the gun before it gets produced.
How many times have I shot an airgun, only to remark to myself: “I bet nobody in the company ever tested this.” If they had, they’d have recognized how bad it is. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to recognize that an air rifle is too difficult to cock (e.g., Hatsan 135), falls apart within a short time or has way too much barrel droop to use a scope (e.g., any Diana 34), etc.

5. Don’t offer features that shooters don’t need.
This is the age-old marketing ploy: “If we can’t advance the technology, give them something different.” It doesn’t matter that they don’t need it — offer it anyway so the list of features on the outside of the package is longer. I’m referring to things like scope sights that you can see through to supposedly enable you to use the open sights while the scope is mounted. No experienced shooter does that, but you’ll find a mountain of see-through scope rings on the market. The truth is that those see-through rings are nothing of the kind. The 15-foot-long aluminum extrusion they were cut from was made with that hole to conserve aluminum, period. Yet, they’ll tell you it’s both to lighten the rings and to see through.

6. When you can, design in a modular way.
Make a trigger whose parts are all contained in one unit that can be handled outside the gun without regard to losing parts. Make a powerplant that can be disassembled in a straightforward way with no need for holding fixtures or jigs.

Well, there you have 6 of my ideas for the better engineering of airguns. Now, I’d like you to add yours in the comments section. Don’t strain to invent something new, just to have a submission. Your ideas should be things you’ve wanted to say for a long time but were unable to find the right place to say them. I’ll save those that are clear and understandable; and, if there are enough of them, I’ll publish a list of all of them in the future.

The art of collecting airguns – Part 7

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

This blog has done a lot to stimulate my own airgun hobby. I told you about the lucky accident that got me a 19th century crank-wound shooting gallery dart gun for Christmas, now it’s time for an update.

Like many of you, I cannot get out to as many flea markets, garage sales and auctions as I would like. In fact, I get to almost none of them! Instead, I have to look for alternative means of finding airguns for my collection. One of the best ways, and I have documented it already in this series, is watching the airgun classified ads and the other buying and selling websites on the internet.

We’ve discussed the dangers of dealing with people you don’t know. I told you about how I came in possession of my Walther LGV Olympia target rifle for only $425. It was a rifle advertised on the Yellow Forum classified ads website, but I already knew the seller was an honorable man. So, there was no risk dealing with him.

Well, two weeks ago, I did it again, only this time I scored a double! Allow me to tell you the tale.

One place I watch for buys is a website called Texas Gun Trader. It’s mostly a firearm website that gun owners in Texas use to buy, sell and trade guns. Because it’s all in-state and because this is Texas and therefore free from restrictive state legislation, this practice is still legal. There are thousands of entries on this site, but I seldom find anything that I want, because its mostly new guns, black rifles and plastic pistols. But, by watching i, I do catch the few good buys that come along — most of the time.

As an airgunner, I know and love the Sheridan company. Did you know that back in the 1950s, they also made a firearm? They made just over 15,000 single-shot .22 rimfire pistols that were low cost ($17.95) and originally meant to be thrown into tackle boxes and under truck seats. Remember, those were the 1950s, and freedoms abounded back then.

Anyway, the Sheridan Knocabout, as it was called, was never a star in its day. But today, an airgun collector may have an interest in owning a firearm made by one of the best-recognized airgun companies in America. I certainly do. It’s just the reverse of wanting to own a “Winchester” model 427 spring rifle, even though you know it was made in Germany by Diana.

A couple weeks ago, I saw that I’d just missed a Knocabout pistol posted a few hours ago on Texas Gun Trader. It was up only a few hours before it sold, and the selling price was $185 — a good price if the gun’s in good shape, which this one was. Better than that, it also came with a genuine Sheridan leather holster marked with the Knocabout name. That’s much harder to find and probably adds considerable value to the package. But I’d missed it — darn!

So, I went over to to the firearm auction website, and searched on the name Knocabout. To my utter astonishment, there was one listed! I’ve done this numerous times before and always came up empty-handed, but this time I struck gold. The listing was for a gun in excellent condition, the original box with the owner’s instructions and another pamphlet about shooting. And, beside that, it also came with a leather holster!

The Sheridan Knocabout is a single-shot .22 rimfire pistol from the 1950s. This one is in excellent condition.

The small stud through the front of the triggerguard is pressed down to open the action for loading. The action opens via a spring, and the cartridge is ejected automatically.

Slightly over 15,000 pistols were produced. This is an early one.

The box is the only place that has the name. It cannot be found on the pistol. Note the unusual spelling that led to my good fortune.

The holster is made to fit the pistol. It’s much more scarce than the pistol, as not many of the $18 utility-grade pistols had $3 holsters bought for them.

Boring to anyone but a collector, the markings on the holster positively identify it.

The starting bid for this gun on the auction site was $250, which is high for a gun alone in excellent condition, but only perhaps slightly over half of what a boxed gun with a holster is worth. Then I looked at the number of times the listing had been viewed. It was less than 50! Nobody was looking at this gun! Want to know why?

It was hidden from view because the name Knocabout is a misspelling of the word knockabout! The second “K” is missing. Just on a whim, I did a search on the term Sheridan Knockabout and I found another gun in excellent condition listed on the same website, but there were already 12 bids on it. The gun I wanted to buy had nobody looking at it, while the same gun, minus the box, instructions and holster, had lots of interest.

This is a search strategy I’ve written about before, and it’s so powerful that you really should try it. Search for Daisys all day long, then search for Daiseys. You’ll find them. There are almost as many Crossman airguns as there are genuine Crosmans. Internet search engine optimizers know that misspellings are so common they must be incorporated into addresses, so you should learn to use this powerful tool, too.

I waited out the bid cycle and won the gun, submitting the only bid it received. I then made arrangements to pay and have the gun shipped to my local Texas FFL dealer. Because the gun was coming from another state, I had to register it through a licensed dealer in my state. That’s the law. The gun that was listed on the Texas Gun Trader was located in Dallas and would not have had to be registered because it was being sold between residents of the same state. That’s the way the federal law is written, and only a few states have created additional laws on top of it. Not Texas.

Okay, so now I go to my gun dealer to arrange the transfer of the gun. I pay them a $30 transfer fee and they arrange to receive the gun and register it to me. While I’m talking to the salesman there, I mention I’m into airguns, and he tells me about an airgun he’s had for years, but it no longer works. His father bought it many years before, and they’ve had some wonderful times shooting it together. I tell him that I will help him get it running again, and asked him to bring it into the shop so I can look at it. He said he would because he’s been looking for someone who knows something about airguns. I assured him that one way or another we’ll get his rifle fixed.

While we talked, I tried to guess what kind of gun he had. It was a breakbarrel for sure, but he couldn’t remember the brand or model. He thought it was from Germany. When I got home, I told Edith about my encounter and about the breakbarrel spring gun that stopped working (wouldn’t shoot a pellet out the barrel) and simultaneously we guessed that it might be an FWB 124. That would make perfect sense with the gun suddenly stopping like that, because the 124 had a bad formula for the piston seal and eventually all failed.

So, last week I went back to the shop to register my new pistol that had just arrived. After everything was finished, he showed me his late model Beeman FWB 124. It was the final model model that has no palm swell, has the aluminum trigger blade and the serial number is above 40,000. Oh, boy! According to Jim Maccari, this is a gun that will respond quite well to one of his tuneup kits. I told the guy that and I told him what his rifle was worth. I figured he would be delighted to have this cherished old favorite back in operation. Then, IT happened. You know what I mean. He asked me if I knew of anybody who might be interested in buying his rifle.

This 124 just snuck up on me at a gun store. And, yes, the scope is all wrong but I’m going to try it anyway.

I’d assumed that since it was his father’s rifle there was a lot of emotional attachment, and I would just be happy to get it running for them again. I never imagined he might want to sell it. So, I offered a fair price that was about a tuneup kit’s value less than the price I had told him it was worth. Long story short, I bought the rifle. That’s what I meant by this tale being about a double score. Not only did I get the great Sheridan Knocabout pistol, I also got an FWB 124 that I can now tune for you and share as part 14 to the FWB 124 series. I never planned this or even thought about it, but you can bet I moved plenty fast when the opportunity presented itself.

I also told the seller to watch this blog; and if he had regrets or second thoughts, I would sell his rifle back for what I paid. I usually do that if there’s a possibility of any emotional attachment.

So, this was a great find on two nice collectible guns: one is a firearm with an airgun connection, and the other is a fine vintage air rifle that has a lot of potential to be a nice shooter after I fix it.

All of which leads me to the rest of this report. Here I have some things for you if you’re a collector. All the time the story of the Knocabout and 124 was happening to me privately, another story of airgun acquisition has been unfolding right on this blog in front of you! I’m talking about the Whiscombe JW 75 serial No. 5 that was up for sale that I announced in the comments section. That rifle, which as of today has not been sold, has had the interest of two of our active readers. Maybe it will sell and maybe not, but it’s a story of acquisition that’s happening right now.

The rifle has a Tyrolean stock and is the same breakbarrel/underlever design as my own Whiscombe. The owner of this .22 caliber rifle wasn’t satisfied with the accuracy he was getting at 50 yards, so he did some experimental work that lead to the gun being returned to Whiscombe for another barrel. There’s more to it than that, but those are the highlights. Since Whiscombes don’t come on the market that often, I wanted to make sure all of you knew about this one. Contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the seller if you’re seriously interested.

There’s also the cased air cane made by Reilly of London that has all the tools, plus the pump and everything is in the original wooden case with maker’s label. That gun is another costly collectible that has been in play since last November. And, it’s still available the last time I checked.

In the collectible airgun world, it doesn’t get much better than a 19th century cased air cane from London…with all the tools.

And, now for a new prize that hasn’t been seen for almost a decade. Do you remember the article Steel Dreams, about the attempt to build a spring rifle in .22 caliber that would exceed the speed of sound? Well, that rifle is now available. Read the article and see if this is something you’re interested in, because it isn’t a rifle to shoot a lot. If you are serious, email me, and I’ll forward your message to the seller.

It’s a bruiser! One of two handmade guns designed to take .22 caliber pellets through the sound barrier.

Since this report is about collectible airguns, I want to make sure you all know about the best finds that come to my attention. You can do your own searching, as I’ve outlined above and good luck to you, but sometimes there are special things that are directed to me, alone. When I see them, I try to get the word out. If you’re a serious airgun collector, keep an eye on this blog and neat things will pop up from time to time.

More about Gamo Match pellets: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

This is the second part of blog reader Vince’s test of Gamo Match pellets. This will conclude the .177 pellets, and next week we’ll give you his report on .22 Gamo Match pellets.

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

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’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Part 1

by Vince

This is the unnamed Chinese sidelever I blogged a little while ago, and it turned out that it was made by EMEI of China. It also turned out to be a very basic, simple gun with a very decent barrel that would shoot better and more consistently than expected. In this test it didn’t do quite as well as it had in the past.

And, it definitely votes “NO!” on the new pellet. The difference isn’t gargantuan, but it is significant. Verdict: Older is better.

Daisy 1150
The Daisy 1150 is one of the Gamo Daisys, this one being a rebadged Delta Cadet. It’s the same action that lives on in the Recon. It’s definitely in the youth gun category.

These results surprised me since this gun and the older Match pellets were being made at the same time as this rifle. But, holes don’t lie. While the actual ctc (center-to-center) isn’t that much different, it’s obvious that the new ones are shooting more consistently. Verdict: Newer is better.

This is the Norica Beeman I blogged a little while ago, a gun that did well with Premiers. From these groups, you can see why I didn’t report its performance with Gamo Match pellets of any stripe.

Yes, the older pellets did better, but neither was anything to write home about. I wouldn’t use them in this gun as a matter of course. Verdict: Both poor.

Possibly the best air rifle I have, the HW30 holds (for me) the best open-sight group I’ve ever shot — about 1/8″ at 10 meters for 5 shots. This was done with the old-style Gamo Match pellets, so I knew the newer ones weren’t gonna beat it.

Near as I can tell, I just didn’t have my technique down quite right, as the HW is a bit hold sensitive. Still, it’s a fair group, and the comparison clearly illustrates the preference for the older pellets. Verdict: Older is better.

The last of my novelty guns, the Industry QB51 is another folding-stock air rifle. This one is a breakbarrel that’s not trying to resemble anything in particular. It’s a crude gun with poor cocking geometry, giving a short but stiff cocking stroke, and a stiff trigger make it difficult to keep on target. So I wasn’t expecting much.

It actually didn’t do too bad with the old pellets but didn’t get along with the new ones very well. Verdict: Older is better.

The QB88 is another sidelever produced by Industry Brand, a notch or two up from the TS45/TS41/B4-1 garden stakes that made up their entry level sidelevers. This gun has Shanghai’s copy of the Gamo trigger and actually feels nicer than some real Gamo triggers I’ve sampled. The gun used to be advertised as having a choked barrel, not sure if that’s true or not. But, it’s a fair plinker, nonetheless — easy to cock, not harsh at all and fairly accurate.

Yes, that little half-circle at the top of the picture is included in the group. When I tried a make-up shot for that flier, it landed even further away. By contrast,the older Gamo pellets preferred to live in the same neighborhood. Verdict: Older is better.

Mendoza RM200
The RM200 is one of Mendoza’s mid-powered springers, very similar to the Air Venturi Bronco sold by Pyramyd Air. I’ve had them apart and side-by-side, and the only substantial difference I could find in the action was the spring.

The RM200 doesn’t really care for either pellet. The group clustered with the newer ones and smeared’ for the older, but the overall group size is about the same. Verdict: Comparable.

Gamo Sporter 500
A more powerful cousin to the itty-bitty Delta Cadet, the Sporter 500 featured similar hybrid plastic/metal construction but bolted into a wood stock. It, of course, shares the same trigger as almost every other Gamo rifle produced over the past umpteen years and is one of the most stubbornly twangy airguns I’ve ever shot. Still, it’s light, easy to cock and shoots well with Premiers.

The newer pellets went into a tighter group than the older, showing the same preference for the new pellets as the Daisy 1150/Delta Cadet. Verdict: Newer is better.

Sea Lion
This is another rifle that has something of an unclear lineage. All I know for sure is that the Sea Lion underlever was imported in some quantity some time back, and its overall appearance is certainly evocative of the more recent Industry B3. But, evocative in appearance, only. I’ve had this one apart, and it’s not an early B3 variant. The innards are too different. I’m wondering if it’s a stablemate of sorts to that old Chinese sidelever I have — based on its simple design, good construction and decent barrel.

The new pellets actually produced a pretty good group for open sights. Certainly far better than the old. Verdict: Newer is better.

How do the totals tally up? I tested 15 guns, and of those 15 almost half (7) liked the older pellets better. The newer ones were favored by 4 guns, and the remaining 4 seem to think they were comparable.

The inescapable conclusion remains that these pellets are indeed significantly different despite their superficial similarities, and while some guns will shoot them well the fact is that if your gun liked the old pellets, there’s no guarantee that it will like the new ones. Lastly, based on this sample, they simply aren’t as good overall.

Look for a test of the .22 Gamo Match pellets next week.

More about Gamo Match pellets: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Regular blog reader Vince has tested some Gamo Match pellets for us in a LOT of guns. His vast collection means he can really give a pellet the once-over to see if it’s accurate anywhere.

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

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’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

by Vince

This is the first of two parts where I test old and new Gamo Match pellets in .177 and .22. This round is in .177. I’ll do .22 caliber another day. I wanted to see if the pellet changed enough to affect their performance.

A little quick background — even though the old Gamo Match pellet wasn’t really up to match-grade quality, it was a popular and inexpensive pellet that gave credible performance in a lot of guns. After looking at a batch I’d recently bought, it was obvious that Gamo had changed the design of the pellet since the last ones I’d purchased, even though the packaging and UPC code were the same.

I’m not doing this just for your sake. I bought several thousand of these pellets and need to know if I’m keeping or returning them!

There ARE rules
On to the .177 test. These are the rules:

1. 5-6 warm-up shots with the newer pellets
2. 5 shots on target
3. Switch to the old pellets and 5 more shots on the paper

If I get a single flier in a group, I’d take a 6th shot. If it went in with the 4 good ones, I’d discount the flier. Let’s go!

RWS Diana 26
I’ve had this rifle for about 2 years — a rescue from a hole-in-the-wall gun shop. It’s a nice, mid-powered Diana with the T01 trigger and moderate weight and cocking effort (a little more than a Diana 27). When shot with both pellets, I got the following:

Well THIS was unexpected. It actually LIKES the new pellets and very much prefers them to the old. Verdict: Newer is better.

RWS 92/Cometa 220
The 92 is in the same general class as the Diana 26 in terms of power and size, but I find that it generally doesn’t shoot quite as well, or at least as well as easily:

Obviously it preferred the older ones to the newer, but even the older isn’t the best for this gun. Verdict: Older is better

RWS 93/Cometa 300
The model 93 was always (to me) a bit of an enigma. It doesn’t have the trim lines and weight typical of a medium-powered springer; in fact, mine is heavier than the much more powerful Cometa-built RWS 94. It’s a nice shooter, and who really needs 900 fps when punching paper in the basement?

Honest. It IS a nice shooter. At least when I feed it Premiers. Apparently, it’s not big into Spanish entrees. Verdict: Equally poor

Slavia 634
In a rare case of good timing, I snagged this one for, I think, $130 just before prices went through the roof. It’s one of the few spring rifles I’ve got that have never been apart and for which I have no plans to take apart. No need for it at all. It’s not perfect, the sturdy rear sight is a bit hard to adjust and (frankly) I really don’t like the barrel lock arrangement. But those are nitpicks:

Not the greatest but certainly decent plinking accuracy for both pellets. Verdict: Comparable.

Marksman 1790
Endorsed by the US Shooting Team! At least that’s what the box says. The 1790 is a strange bird. The plastic peep sight, die-cast body and painted finish all conspire to give it a very toy-like ambiance, an impression that’s not dispelled by the clunky, cheap-sounding firing cycle. In fact, it’s the most toy-like airgun I’ve ever sampled other than the Diana 16. I don’t know if it’s coincidence that it actually uses the same breakbarrel arrangement and geometry as the diminutive DIana, with the big, fat breech seal located in the compression tube and the barrel latch in the lower cocking arm. All things considered, it doesn’t do badly, though:

…at least with the older Match pellets, which it definitely prefers. Verdict: Older is better.

Some day, I’m gonna do a complete Cabanas blog just so someone can help me figure out where this gun came from, how it came into the country and how many are floating around. Wacky Wayne found it somewhere, and I talked him out of it, which is how I came to posses it. For all I know, it could have been a sample given to a retailer and thus be one-of-a-kind. For now, it’s just another gun sampling these pellets:

Definitely prefers the old ones. The first group shows the sort of flier I was on the lookout for… and it prompted me to try an additional shot. It was another flier, so the original one stayed. Verdict: Older is better

Watch for the rest of the story in tomorrow’s blog.

RWS Diana 350 Feuerkraft in .177: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos and test by Earl “Mac” McDonald

The RWS Diana 350 Feuerkraft is a budget version of the 350 Magnum powerplant. It still comes with open sights, so nothing more to buy.

This test has been requested many times and for over a year. I reported on the RWS Diana 350 Magnum in .22 caliber way back in February 2006. Although that report was an early one with only one short part, the real objection has been that I tested the .22 caliber rifle. Those making the request for a retest wanted me to test the .177.

For rifles in the 350 Magnum’s power class, I feel that .177 is a waste of energy. They shoot the lightweight pellets too fast for accuracy and they waste a lot of potential power because the .177 bore is too small to transmit the energy. But, people kept right on asking; and when you wore me down, I finally saw the light. So, here’s the test you’ve asked for.

We selected the 350 Feuerkraft model for Mac to test, but the performance will be the same for all 350s, regardless of the name. The powerplant remains the same, regardless of how long the barrel is, what’s attached to the metal or what stock it sits in.

The Feuerkraft 350 is the lowest-priced of all the 350 models. If you plan to build up a custom rifle, this would be the place to start. The one advantage a .177 has over a .22 is a flatter trajectory. Although the .22 owners of the 350 praise it for having a flat trajectory already, there’s no denying that the faster .177 pellets will go farther and flatter. That’s something a hunter will value.

I told Mac that my impression of the 350 was very different from other Diana air rifles. The stock is slender and feels very different than the fatter stocks on the sidelever models or even the stock on the 460 Magnum underlever. It feels long and slender — a rifleman’s stock, if you will. I’m most reminded of shooting a 1903 Springfield whenever I hold a 350 Magnum. It has that long, slim, purposeful feel, as though you know it’s going to shoot okay before you fire the first shot. I asked Mac to see what he thought, and he reported that the feeling was the same for him.

All 350s are large air rifles, make no mistake. They’re not plinking guns! They’re made for hunting and pest elimination and whatever other shooting leads up to those endeavors. It’s 48.3 inches long, with an almost 20-inch barrel. The pull measures 14.25 inches.

The T05 trigger breaks at just 32 oz., and Mac reports that the firing behavior is dead calm. The first-stage pull has a definite stop point where stage two begins, and the let-off is as crisp as one could hope for. The cocking effort is a whopping 54 lbs., so, again, it’s not a plinker. That sort of flies in the face of the advertised specification of 33 lbs. cocking effort, and we wanted you to know before buying. Also, be aware that the barrel comes through a very long arc when the rifle is cocked. It goes way beyond 90 degrees and reaches a point where the geometry no longer helps in the cocking effort.

The wood is beech, without figure and finished a medium brown. The wood work is well done except the cocking link scrapes the clearance slot cut in the bottom of the forearm. The Feuerkraft has a fully ambidextrous stock without a Monte Carlo comb or raised cheekpiece, so it works for everybody. The stock is also uncheckered, which is why this is the lowest-priced model in the 350 lineup. The buttpad is solid black rubber and well-fitted to the stock. Mac commented that the comb is low enough to accommodate a low-mounted scope, if such a thing still exists in the world of airguns.

Mac wanted to test the rifle with open sights and then with a scope. But, as we were talking about the test, he discovered that he could not remove the front sight, so he added a test with a Mendoza peep sight. You may remember that sight from the time I did the Bronco test and tried to mount it. It was too high for the Bronco, but Mac thinks it’ll work okay on the 350 Feuerkraft. At least, it’ll work good enough for us to compare regular fiberoptic open sights to a peep sight.

Mac’s observation of the fiberoptic sights that come with the rifle are that the fiberoptic rods grow larger in strong light and cause problems with sighting precision. He’d prefer plain open sights, but I told him a trick I use when shooting with fiberoptics. I keep the rifle in the dark, so it cannot gather any light. If the target is then brightly lit, the sights look like a simple post and notch without any fiberoptic light. I told him that after he shot the rifle for record, put in time to use my technique when shooting with the peep sight. So, we shall see what kind of difference there is between fiberoptics and unlit sights.

Mac says the sight radius of just over 19 inches is long enough for great precision; but, with both sights so far from the shooter’s eyes, the sights look like they’re mounted on a carbine instead of a rifle. That’s another area in which the peep sight will have the advantage.

Customer reviews of the 350 Magnums are relatively high for spring rifles. People remarked that the build quality is excellent and accuracy was well above normal. In fact, even those who rated the rifle as average gave it high marks for accuracy.

So, lovers of magnum .177s, you’re finally going to get your wish as Mac dives into this rifle. He’s going to shoot it with fiberoptic sights and a peep sight, then he’ll mount a good scope and test it again. By the time this report is completed, you should know whether the 350 is for you and which caliber to get.

Tech Force TF79 Competition Rifle – Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, I have 2 announcements:

First, the January podcast is now available. My voice comes and goes, so I have to wait for it to be loud enough to produce the podcasts.

Second, the instructional video section of Airgun Academy has been filling up. I haven’t announced on the blog all the videos as they’ve been uploaded, but we’re already up to No. 18! Also, Pyramyd Air put the first 10 videos on a DVD so you can watch them on your TV or when you’re offline. Of course, you can still access them on Airgun Academy.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Tech Force TF79 Competition rifle is a lot of value for a very low price.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the .177 caliber Tech Force TF79 Competition rifle. This is Part 4 and not Part 3 because of the special report I did on the trigger in Part 2.

The trigger that I reported was doing very well in Part 3 is still performing up to spec for this test. Apparently, the moly took care of the tiny bit of creep left in the sear, so now the trigger breaks crisply. It feels like the target trigger that it is.

There were no called fliers in this entire test. The TF79 shoots so smoothly that the bullseye remains pretty much centered in the front sight aperture element. All shooting was done from a rest at 10 meters. I used both the artillery hold and the rifle rested directly on the sandbag, which you can get away with when shooting either gas or pneumatic recoilless rifles.

RWS Hobbys
I sighted-in the rifle using RWS Hobby pellets. The sights were way off target and had to be adjusted over one inch in both directions. That took a lot of clicks, because each one moves the sight only a very short distance. The clicks are vague and indefinite, but I could feel each one. Some felt soft and mushy, while others felt like the mechanism was binding then releasing.

RWS Hobbys were used to sight-in the rifle. After that, the sights were not adjusted for the other pellets. These 5 Hobbys gave a good group of 0.338 inches.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
The next pellet tested was the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. Four of those grouped in a tight 0.29-inch group, but the fifth pellet opened the group to 0.587 inches. That makes me want to try these pellets again, in the hopes that the stray shot was a fluke. But, the sights were set perfectly for all shots and no alibi is claimed. This pellet has a head size of 4.50mm.

A tantalizing group. Four were under one-third-inch, but the fifth opened the group to more than a half-inch. H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets.

RWS R10 Match Heavies
RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets were next, and I really had high hopes for them. But they went the other way, giving one of the worst groups of the test. Five pellets grouped in 0.889″. Another 4.50mm-head pellet.

A disappointing group, to say the least! Five RWS R10 Heavies made this 0.889-inch group.

RWS R10 Match Pistol
If the heavy R10s were disappointing, the lighter RWS Match Pistol pellets were a shock. They produced the second-worst target of the test, with five shots grouping in 1.133 inches at 10 meters. Head size is 4.50mm.

Five H&N Match Pistol pellets made this 1.133-inch group at 10 meters. No need to point out how poor this is, but let’s learn something from it. Compare this group to the one made by the RWS Hobbys, and you’ll see how dramatic a change of pellet can be.

Gamo Match
The old fallback, Gamo Match pellets, turned in a relatively good group of 0.458 inches. While that isn’t 10-meter target rifle performance by any stretch, it’s much better than what was done by several of the higher-quality pellets. No head size is given on the tin.

Five Gamo Match pellets made this 0.458-inch group.

RWS Supermags
At this point in the test, I was beginning to wonder what I could do to get better accuracy from this rifle. The first group of RWS Hobbys showed that it could shoot, but for some reason the other groups were mediocre. I reasoned that a heavier, larger pellet might be the answer. The next pellet I tried was the RWS Supermag. Besides being a heavier pure lead pellet, the Supermag is also a wadcutter, so it prints well on target paper. No head size given.

Five RWS Supermags went through this 0.679-inch group at 10 meters. Not too encouraging!

JSB S100
Next, I tried a favorite pellet. The JSB S100 is not only hand-sorted by weight at the factory, these particular ones have a head size of 4.52mm. If size is a problem, I figured these would take care of it. The group they printed was 0.565 inches — again, no joy.

I can usually count on JSB S100 pellets to deliver the goods, but not today. Five shots went into this 0.565-inch group. Ho-hum!

JSB Exact RS
The last pellet I tested wasn’t a target pellet, but I wanted to know what difference it might make. The JSB Exact RS pellet has delivered the goods in the past, so it was worth a try. Five went into a group measuring 1.429 inches, which has the distinction of being the worst group of the test.

Five JSB Exact RS pellets made this 1.429-inch pattern (too large to call it a group) at 10 meters. Clearly not the right pellet for the TF79. You can also see why domed pellets are not used for formal target shooting. The vague and jagged holes they make in the target paper are too difficult to score.

What gives?
The results of this test are not indicative of the normal accuracy of a TF79 in my experience. The group made by the RWS Hobbys indicates the rifle can shoot when it wants to. I’ll come back to it and test it with different pellets, plus I’ll also clean the barrel before that test. Don’t scratch this one off your list until I’ve had the opportunity for a second run!

Except for the accuracy, the TF79 has everything in the world going for it. Of course, that’s an absurd thing to say about a target rifle, so we still have to see better performance if this rifle is to be on the short list of good competition guns.

Benjamin Marauder pistol – Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

With the 30mm Compact Centerpoint scope mounted, the Benjamin Marauder is set up for hunting small game.

This is the test I promised at the end of Part 3 of the .22-caliber Benjamin Marauder air pistol report back in December. You’ll remember that I didn’t think the scope I used for accuracy testing in Part 3 was doing all it could for the gun. I said I would try it again with the 30mm Centerpoint scope Crosman had sent with the gun, once I had a set of rings to mount it.

If you’re just learning about the Benjamin Marauder pistol for the first time with this report, you need to know that this pistol has taken the airgun world by storm. Just as the Benjamin Marauder rifle holds its own with European PCPs costing two to three times as much, the Marauder pistol does the same when compared to the high-priced PCPs coming from the same European companies. It’s a red-hot seller that offers unprecedented power and accuracy at an affordable price.

It has a choked Crosman barrel that stands equal to tubes from Ansch├╝tz and Lothar Walther. The reputation hasn’t been built yet, but the performance is undeniable. The trigger is very sweet and fully adjustable, and of course the pistol is shrouded. When fired, it sounds like a Daisy Red Ryder instead of the 15 foot-pound hunting airgun that it is.

I wasn’t satisfied that I’d seen all the accuracy the pistol had to offer in the last accuracy test, so this additional test was added to give us a second look. What I learned this time was remarkable and worthy of note, but I’ll get to that later.

For this test, I mounted Centerpoint’s 3-12×44 Power Class scope with mil-dot reticle and sidewheel AO in a set of two-piece Centerpoint 30mm high rings that Crosman provided. The high rings raised the scope up so high that I had to rest my chin on the comb of the detachable shoulder stock to see a clear image. If this were my pistol I would attach about an inch of firm foam padding to the top of the shoulder stock comb to bring my eye comfortably up to the right height.

This scope is sufficiently clear and bright enough that it enhanced the sight picture rather than detracting like the last scope did. Although the reticle lines are not thin, I was able to see the intersection of both the horizontal and vertical lines clearly inside the 10-ring of the bull, so aiming was more precise than it had been during the test in Part 3.

Which pellet to use?
Normally, when testing the accuracy of any airgun, I select four to six different pellets that I think will work, given the power and potential accuracy of the test gun. Then, we’ll see how they actually do on the range. Picking pellets for accuracy testing is fairly straightforward and based on the past performance of those pellets in similar guns. But not this time. I tried five different types of .22 caliber pellets, in addition to two other pellets that were used in Part 3 (Beeman Kodiaks were reused in this test because they did so well the first time around). However, nothing I tried wanted to group — except the Kodiaks. Kodiaks grouped so well that the pistol is an undeniable tackdriver. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Unfortunately, I didn’t pick Kodiaks from the start to sight-in the new scope, therefore I stumbled around with two other pellets for quite a while before realizing what was happening. They were RWS Superdomes and 15.9-grain JSB Exact domes. Both gave mediocre groups of about one inch at 25 yards in the test pistol, which made sighting-in very difficult. Then, I just gave up and defaulted to the Kodiaks that had done so well in the last accuracy test I delivered in Part 3. That’s when the gun started to perform.

In fact, the first “group” of Kodiaks was just for kicks to see where 8 pellets would land. Eight instead of 10, because that’s how many the magazine holds.

The first group of Kodiaks at 25 yards was this one. Eight pellets went into this 0.405-inch group. Though shot just for fun, it turned out to be the best group of the test.

After that, I shot group after group, and they were all similar. After several tight groups had built up my confidence in the gun, I was reminded of my old Hakim rifle that used to lob them into a similar round group at 10 meters. I would get so mesmerized by how accurate that rifle was that I couldn’t stop shooting. The sight of each new tight group when I went downrange to change targets was a turn-on. In the case of the Marauder pistol, I could watch through the scope as shot after shot went into the same ragged hole, only not at 10 meters but 25 yards. Thinking about my old Hakim also reminded me that the most accurate pellet in that rifle was the RWS Superpoint, which is now called the Superpoint Extra.

So, I got a tin of those and tried them in the pistol. Wrong! The groups opened up to almost one inch once more. So I wondered whether the heavy 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbos would perform more like the Kodiaks. After all, they are within a couple grains of the Kodiak’s weight and they are made by JSB. But I might as well have been shooting a shotgun, for all the good they did. No, this pistol wants to shoot Beeman Kodiaks, and nothing else!

I know this photo looks fishy, like I’m hiding a pellet hole under the coin, but I’m not. It’s just difficult to position a dime next to a target on a scanner. This group of eight Kodiaks measures 0.529 inches between centers. The top and bottom holes have closed, making the group appear smaller than it really is. This group is about the average size of all the Kodiak groups I fired.

Then, I had a thought. What about those new copperplated Kodiaks? Would they do just as well as the regular Kodiaks? If I didn’t try them, someone would bring it to my attention. I didn’t think the copperplated ones would perform the same as pure lead Kodiaks, but the only way to know for sure is to shoot them. I loaded a magazine and gave them a try. Much to my surprise, they did just as good as the all-lead Kodiaks.

Eight Kodiak copperplated pellets went into this group, which measures 0.458 inches c-t-c. Remarkable performance!

That’s my report on the Marauder pistol. Some will read it and grouse about the pistol not doing well with a wide range of pellets, but the black powder cartridge shooter in me says that as long as there’s one bullet or pellet that shines, the gun is alright. Once I find that one best pellet, I never mess with the others anyway. In the test pistol, Beeman Kodiak pellets are the clear winner. I would continue to try other pellets from time to time, but Kodiaks would remain my standard ammo until displaced by something even better.

The Benjamin Marauder pistol is every bit as stunning as the Marauder rifle, by reason of accuracy, power, trigger and quiet operation. As long as you use the shoulder stock that comes with the gun and as long as you mount a good-quality scope, this pistol is a real shooter. If you’re looking for a stealthy hunting air pistol, give this one serious consideration.

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