Archive for June 2011

Comparing the T05 trigger to the T06: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

RWS Diana 34 Panther
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Pro-Guide spring retainer system for RWS Diana rifles — Part 5 The RWS Diana 34 Panther
Part 5

I’m testing the T06 trigger today using the accuracy test as a means to evaluate the operation of the trigger. The object is not to see how accurate this RWS Diana model 34P is. We already know that from tests run long ago. But as I try to shoot groups with the gun, I can get the feel of the new trigger better than any other method. So, today is about a trigger and not about this air rifle.

Of course, I’ve already used the trigger a lot in the velocity testing I did a couple days ago. Now, however, I’ll be holding tight on a small target, and any aberration in the trigger will come though loud and clear. This is where the rubber meets the road!

New BKL adjustable mount
I’m also testing the new BKL adjustable scope mount at the same time, and the next report will be exclusively about that. I showed you the new mount in Part 1, but what I didn’t show you was the bubble level that’s attached to the left side of the mount base.

The optional BKL bubble level is mounted on the left side of the new BKL adjustable scope mount. This view shows the rear of the mount raised up to compensate for this rifle’s barrel droop.

With this level attached, I can sight with one eye and watch the bubble with the other. I can’t see both at the same time, which is why a scope with an internal bubble level would be so desirable, but at least I don’t have to move my head to see the bubble like you do with some other levels. I’ll be reporting on it when I cover the mount in the next report.

Back to the accuracy test
I learned in the past that this rifle really likes 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers, so instead of fooling around with many different pellets, I selected just these pellets for the test. That way I could forget about trying to make the rifle shoot well and concentrate on the trigger.

Ten Crosman Premier lites went into this 0.443-inch group at 25 yards. It’s a little larger than Roosevelt’s head on the dime but smaller than the entire coin.

Though I’m only showing you a single 10-shot group, I shot much more than that. I probably shot 50 shots for today’s test, on top of about 20 the day before when I was checking out and adjusting the new mount. With all this testing, I became very familiar with the T06 trigger.

How the T06 trigger differs from the T05
The T06 operates differently than the T05 did. The T05 stopped cleanly at stage two and held there until the instant the sear released. There was no feeling of movement once stage two was engaged.

The T06 also stops cleanly at stage two, but as you continue to pull you can feel the trigger moving through the stage. Normally this is called creep, but it is absolutely smooth with no pauses or hesitations, and it doesn’t fit the popular definition for trigger creep. In fact, this movement becomes entirely predictable and something a shooter can learn to live with.

Something else about the stage-two pull on the T06 — on most triggers, when you pause part way through stage two, back off and then return to it again, as much of it that was pulled through is still gone. You’ve advanced the trigger or shortened the stage-two pull, whichever you prefer. Not so on the T06.

Because the Diana 34P requires so much technique (the artillery hold) to shoot accurately, I found myself stopping several times before the trigger released to take another breath. When I did that, naturally I relaxed my trigger finger as well. Then, I had to settle myself again before returning to the trigger. What I found when I got back on the trigger was that it had reset itself to the start point. The full trigger-pull was restored. This is what I want all triggers to do, because anything else means an unpredictable trigger that could release before I’m ready. From that standpoint, the T06 is a very nice trigger. The T05 didn’t have the problem of pulling part way through stage two, so of course it always acted like it had just been set whenever you came back to it as well.

The bottom line
Diana has made a change with the T06 trigger. In my observation, it isn’t any better or worse than the T05; it’s just different. If you want a metal trigger blade, the T06 has it. If you want adjustments, the T06 has more of them. I wasn’t able to eliminate the travel in stage two, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I spent all of 30 minutes adjusting the unit. Someone who is willing to put in more time can probably discover secrets that I didn’t find.

The bottom line as far as I see it is the T06 trigger is now here and the T05 is a thing of the past. I alerted you to the difference between the T05 and T06 pistons, so you know they go together and a T01 trigger can also use the same piston as the T05.

The new trigger is nice and predictable. It has the features I’ve mentioned, and they all work well. If you wind up with one on your next Diana airgun you should be satisfied with it. But if you currently own a T01 or a T05 trigger, I wouldn’t plan to change it.

Testing the Air Arms Pro-Sport : Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I love my job! Today, I’ll start a report on a rifle I have been commenting about on this blog for the past six years. The Air Arms Pro-Sport. The rifle I received is in .177 caliber, but it also comes as a .22. I asked for the .177 because this rifle is one that turns up at field target matches from time to time.

The Air Arms Pro-Sport underlever rifle has a unique look and style. This one is stocked in walnut.

Before I forget, the serial number is 105224. When I mentioned that I would be reporting about this rifle a few weeks ago, one reader noted that it was priced significantly higher than the TX200 Mark III, and he wondered if it was worth the extra money. I checked and, indeed, the Pro-Sport with the beech stock now costs $110 more than a similar TX200. A walnut stock adds another $130 to that. So the question is: Is that expensive?

Descended from royalty
Not from my perspective, it isn’t. What you may not know is that this rifle copies the Venom Mach II that was handmade for a brief time by Ivan Hancock. That rifle cost over $4,000 way back in the 1990s; and when the Pro-Sport came out at a tiny fraction of that price, it allowed mere mortals, including me, to own one. The problem was that I’d shot the $4,000 rifle extensively and expected the Pro-Sport to shoot the same. That’s like thinking that a Cobra replicar, as nice as they are, is like a genuine Cobra made by Carroll Shelby. They’re not the same, no matter how much they may look alike. But, I couldn’t get the feeling of that fine custom rifle out of my head, and frankly the Pro-Sport I owned paled in comparison.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since those days. I thought it was high time I tested another Pro-Sport to give it every chance to live up to its heritage. Yes, it still has its TX200 sibling to contend with, but the impression of the handmade rifle has dimmed enough to let me at least appear to be impartial.

It may not appear to be an underlever when you look at the profile, but it most certainly is. It follows the style created by BSA with their Airsporter series rifles back in the 1940s, where the underlever is concealed within the forearm. This is not as unique as you think, because Falke used it for their models 80 and 90, as well as Anschutz for the Hakim trainer and possibly others as well. But the lines of the Pro-Sport are so svelt as to mislead the viewer from the actual power source. So, I’ll show it here with the cocking lever extended to let you know where it lives.

Now you know where the underlever hides when it’s not in use.

This arrangement of the underlever does lead to an operational tradeoff. I’ve said that the Pro-Sport is hard to cock. Indeed, I waited this long to test it so my hernia surgery could heal. In fact, it isn’t that the cocking effort is that high as much as where they had to put the fulcrum to hide the lever inside the forearm. It’s located way back toward the rear of the rifle; and when you cock it, you soon run out of the leverage that’s always there in rifles whose levers are located in the forward position. So, prepare yourself mentally for a harder cocking effort with this rifle; and if that seems like a good tradeoff for the sleeker look, then you’ve made the right choice.

On the plus side, there’s no ratcheting lever release on the side of the Pro-Sport. It acts just like an air rifle from the 1950s, except for the automatic safety. Pull the cocking lever down until it cocks, load the pellet and close the lever. Nothing else to do. Owners of other rifles with sliding breeches, including the TX200, are used to pushing buttons before the cocking lever can be moved back to the stowed position, but not on this gun.

Baffled barrel shroud
All the years American airgunners have been debating the legality of barrel shrouds, Air Arms has been steadily selling them on their rifles. The Pro-Sport has a baffled shroud that entirely conceals a barrel 9.50 inches long. Because of the shroud, observers will think the Pro-Sport is noticeably quieter than other spring rifles. The shooter, however, hears all the sound transmitted through the stock and the bones in his skull, and the gun doesn’t sound as quiet as it really is.

Like its other spring-piston siblings, the Pro-Sport has the same wonderful trigger that is so adjustable. It’s an updated redesign of the famous Rekord, only the Air Arms trigger is even more adjustable. There’s no reason not to have exactly what you want with a trigger like this. The safety is also like the one on the Rekord and only pops out when the rifle is cocked.

There’s no denying the best finish in the airgun business. The metal parts sparkle with a deep mirrored black that resembles a Colt Python Royal Blue finish. The wood is equally beautiful, with sharp detailing on the Monte Carlo comb and deeply scalloped cheekpiece for right-handed shooters.

The pistol grip and both sides of the forearm have sharp impressed checkering that does feel rough to the touch. The aluminum cocking linkage and bright steel sliding compression chamber are both silver and the trigger is plated with gold.

Because of the underlever residing in the forearm, the stock is split nearly in two, which leads to additional vibration with each shot. Were this my personal gun, I would get some tar on the mainspring to quiet it down.

The metal and wood this rifle is made from puts it on the heavy side. The nominal weight of just over 9 lbs. is given in the specs, and of course that’s without a scope that’s necessary. The TX200 is a few ounces heavier, but there isn’t that much difference between the two.

Scope mounting
An 11mm dovetail is provided on the top of the rear spring tube, and there are three holes for positioning a vertical scope stop pin. Mounting a scope on this rifle is very easy for anyone.

What’s ahead
This is an important look at an important airgun, because people labor long and hard deciding between this rifle and the TX200. I’m going to try to show you as many of the differences between the two air rifles, while still giving the Pro-Sport its turn in the spotlight.

Comparing the T05 trigger to the T06: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

RWS Diana 34 Panther
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Pro-Guide spring retainer system for RWS Diana rifles — Part 5 The RWS Diana 34 Panther
Part 5

You’ll notice that I’m doing something different in today’s report on the RWS Diana model 34P T06 trigger. I linked not only to Part 1 of the T05/T06 trigger report, but also to the entire RWS Diana 34P report (it used be called the 34 Panther) that was done way back in 2007. I did that because in changing the rifle to the new T06 trigger, I also had to replace the piston. (In Part 1, I mentioned that the T06 trigger requires a different piston to work.)

I also linked to the report where I installed and tested the Air Venturi RWS Diana Pro Guide spring retainer system in this rifle. That single link takes you to the fifth report in an entire series on just the Pro Guide, and that tune is still in this test rifle.

On to today’s report
When I removed the old piston from the rifle for the new trigger installation, I saw that the edge of the seal had been chipped in a couple places, which might have had an effect on the old velocity figures. Although the mainspring remains the same (it’s that Air Venturi Pro Guide upgrade kit I told you about) for both pistons, I have no way of knowing if the piston seal was damaged when I did the velocity test before, so I’m doing the test, again, today.

Here you can see the main cut near the top of the piston seal and a smaller one at the 3 o’clock position. What looks like a third nick on the other side of the seal is just some excess material sloughing off. Although these are very small imperfections, they might have caused some loss of velocity.

You saw the T06 trigger adjustments in the last report. Here’s what the T05 trigger looks like.

The T05 trigger and piston shown together. Compare them to the same picture of the T06 trigger and piston in the last report.

Some of the more anal among you may wonder whether the new seal made it into the gun okay this time, or am I faced with yet another damaged seal. Well, knowing what happened last time I was very careful to tuck in the new seal past all sharp edges of the mainspring tube as the piston slid in, which is usually where such damage happens. I feel reasonably certain that the new seal isn’t damaged. If testing proves otherwise, I’ll pull the piston and examine the seal.

Something new
Another reason I’m doing the test this way is because of a new BKL product. Last week, I told blog reader Kevin about a new BKL adjustable low mount, and now I’m going to show it to everyone. The mount I’m using here is a prototype, but the production mounts are very close to being completed and shipped and should be available for sale in less than two months.

This new mount is adjustable for height, so it’s an anti-droop mount. And, this RWS Diana 34P is the very gun I used to test the original Leapers UTG Diana drooper mounts. This is the rifle that shoots 21 inches low at 20 yards (that’s 6 inches low at 35 yards with the elevation cranked up as far as it will go)! What better gun on which to test an anti-droop mount than the very one that droops the most of any I’ve tested?

The new BKL adjustable mount is lower than most adjustables, yet it allows a 50mm objective to clear the spring tube when full droop is applied. The black post at the rear of the mount controls the vertical adjustment. This mount is a prototype that hasn’t been anodized black.

I’m not going to cover the mount today, but I’ll do a special report on it after the accuracy testing is completed. Remember, folks, what we’re really looking at in this series is the performance of the new Diana T06 trigger. But time and circumstances have allowed us to also look at some additional things as we do.

Today’s report
We’re going to establish the velocity of the rifle with the new piston and seal. I didn’t expect to have any velocity change from the old piston until I saw that seal. As I report the findings, I’ll remind you of the velocities obtained with the same pellets back in 2008 in Part 5 of the Pro Guide test (after it had been installed in this rifle).

Crosman Premier lite
The first pellet I tested was the venerable Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellet. This pellet proved to be quite accurate in this rifle, and I expect it to continue to be accurate in this test. In the original model 34, as it came from the factory, this Premier pellet averaged 919 f.p.s. After the Pro Guide was installed in 2008 in the gun with the T05 trigger, the average velocity increased to 936 f.p.s. When I tested it this time, the average was 956 f.p.s. The spread went from 937 all the way up to 971 f.p.s., so the gun is getting used to its new situation, but that’s still a small increase.

RWS Hobby
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. In the factory 34, Hobbys gave me an average of 1021 f.p.s. After the 2008 installation of the Pro Guide system, the average was still 1021 f.p.s. With the latest T06 trigger installation, the average is still 1021 f.p.s. Apparently, that’s a speed this rifle likes for Hobbys. The spread this time went from 1011 to 1031 f.p.s., so just 20 f.p.s. That’s pretty consistent for a springer.

H&N Baracuda Match
The last pellet tested was the H&N Baracuda Match. These pellets underwent a weight change over the past two years; although they became lighter, they still registered lower velocity with the latest tune. In factory trim, they averaged 820 f.p.s.; after the Pro Guide was installed, that increased to 825 f.p.s. With the latest tune, they now average 801 f.p.s., with a spread from 795 to 808 f.p.s. That’s a very tight 13 foot-second spread; but as you can see, the average has fallen. I do believe this is a different pellet than the one I used before even though the name is the same, but there’s no way to prove it and it doesn’t matter anyway. The current pellet is all you can buy, so it is what it is.

Based on the results of this test, which I verified with additional shots after the chronographing was completed, I proved that the gun was shooting as well as could be expected when the T05 trigger was installed. The cuts on the piston seal appear to have made no difference. There has been almost no change with the new installation.

The T06 trigger
My initial impressions of the T06 trigger is that it is a fine sporting trigger, but it offers no substantial improvements over the T05. This trigger has some creep in the second stage that I’ll try to adjust out. The T05 had zero creep. Its pull can be adjusted lighter than the T05 pull, but it’s somewhat creepy, which more than offsets the lighter breaking weight.

The real test of a trigger comes when you’re trying to shoot for accuracy, so I’ll reserve final comment until then. After the accuracy test, I plan a special report on the new BKL adjustable low mount to show you all the features. By that time, I’ll have hundreds of shots on the gun with the scope mounted, which will serve as a test of it’s stability. And, there’s more…but you’ll just have to wait.

Weihrauch HW 100 S FSB PCP rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This is the actual rifle I’m testing. Isn’t that wood beautiful?

Before I begin, at the end of this report there is a lengthy Q&A section in which Dr. Mirfee Ungier, wife of Pyramyd Air owner Joshua Ungier, answers a number of questions about protective eyewear and other related shooting issues. Dr. Ungier is a respected ophthalmologist with thousands of successful surgeries to her credit, and she agreed to answer readers’ questions about protective eyewear.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the HW 100 S FSB PCP air rifle I’m testing. Throughout this report, I’ve mentioned how impressed I am with this airgun for various reasons. It has the easiest-loading metal rotary clip in the business. You can see the pellets advance in the clip, and now I know that you can even see them when a scope is mounted. That makes the rifle very easy to manage — like knowing when you’re shooting the last shot. And, then, there’s the trigger! This one is perfect for me. It breaks cleanly at 8 oz. and has a positive two-stage release. I couldn’t ask for more.

The rifle is light, or at least it feels light when you hold it. The scale disagrees, but I can’t get away from the lightness I feel. Also, the stock happens to fit me perfectly. Though that’s a very personal thing, you can’t overlook it when it works out your way.

On the down side, I noted that the rifle recoils about the same as a heavy .22 rimfire rifle shooting standard speed ammo. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to have a smallbore PCP recoil. The shot count that the chronograph said could be as high as 38 shots on a fill actually turned out to be about 25, like I first noted. I will show you the evidence on two of the targets.

For this test, I mounted an older version of the Leapers 8-32x56AO scope that was used in the test of the Crosman Outdoorsman 2250. While it was too much scope for the little carbine, it was a perfect fit on the Weihrauch PCP. And, it allowed me to see the bulls at 50 yards very clearly. It was mounted in two-piece B-Square adjustable scope mounts that are no longer available. I’ll soon be showing you a new adjustable scope mount that may solve your scope adjustment problems, in case you do not already own one of these vintage American-made B-Squares.

On the big HW 100, the Leapers 8-32×56 looks right. It’s mounted in a vintage high B-Square adjustable mount that’s no longer available.

Accurate right from the get-go
I enjoy shooting accurate guns, because they cooperate to produce such wonderful results with so little work. The HW 100 is one of those. Even the sight-in group was impressive enough to show you. I selected the 18.1-grain JSB Jumbo Exact Heavy as my sight-in pellet, simply because one owner said he got such good results with it in his .22 rifle.

This is the sight-in group — the first 10 shots made after the scope was mounted. It’s ten 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbos at 50 yards and it measures 0.795 inches between centers. It’s the largest group fired with this pellet.

Then, I settled down and shot a couple more groups with the same pellet. I’d adjusted the point of impact to the exact center of the crosshairs, so on the first group I shot out the aiming point with the first couple shots.

Ten more JSB Exact Jumbos went into this group, which measures 0.667 inches between centers. This is a phenomenal group. After the first couple shots, I had to estimate the location of the center of the bull because it had been shot away.

Learned something important
I tried to shoot a third group of 10 shots, and this is when I learned that the HW 100 doesn’t like to shoot that many shots per fill. At least, it doesn’t if you expect accuracy at 50 yards. Look at the grouping and I will explain.

The first two shots went through the center of the bull. The next two shots are at 5 o’clock on the edge of the black. The rifle is now low on air and the point of impact just shifted as a result. This is part of the proof I mentioned in the beginning of this report that the rifle falls off the performance curve very suddenly.

It occurred to me that I may not have filled the rifle to the exact maximum on the first fill. Taking that into account, I watched the rifle’s manometer as I filled the reservoir the second time, and stopped exactly when it hit the top of the green area, which is an indicated 200 bar or 2,900 psi. But as you will see, the needle is quite fat and a bit imprecise.

The onboard manometer (pressure gauge) is located on the end of the air reservoir, where it can be seen easily during a fill.

On the second round, I learned another important thing. This rifle is slightly overfilled when the needle on the manometer is pointing at the max fill spot. In other words, I should have learned where the right high end point was on my more accurate tank gauge and stopped there, because I’ll show you what happened.

On the next group, the first two shots were in the lower right portion of the bull, then they miraculously jumped back to where they belonged in the center. Even so, this was the tightest group of three shots with the JSB 18.1-grain Exact pellet.

The first two pellets went to the 5 o’clock position, while the other eight went closer to the point of aim. Even with this, the group measures only 0.571 inches between the centers of all 10 shots. It’s the best group of the test. This proves that the rifle needs to be exactly on the power curve to shoot its best. Omitting those two shots and the group shrinks to 0.368 inches. Remembering that most writers only shoot 5-shot groups for the record instead of 10, here are 8 that went well under half an inch!

Now I was on a roll and expected the other pellets to perform equally well. They didn’t though. After reading an owner’s report of the gun, I’d selected the best pellet for the rifle and started the test with it.

Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets were the worst pellets of the four I tested. They grouped 10 shots into a startlingly large 1.907-inch group at the same 50 yards that JSB Jumbos had made a group less than one-third that size. They were a shock and disappointment, but also a reminder of just how sensitive an airgun can be when it comes to ammunition.

This group of Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets was disappointing after the success of the JSB Jumbos. It measures 1.907 inches between centers.

Next, I tried the old favorite 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. At just 14.3 grains, it’s screaming downrange at the ragged edge of accurate velocity, and perhaps just a touch too fast. That’s why they gave a larger group that measured 1.225 inches for 10 shots.

Ten Crosman Premiers went into this group that measures 1.225 inches at 50 yards. It’s not that bad, but we already know this rifle is capable of much better.

The last pellet I tried was the equally brilliant JSB Exact 15-9-grain dome that works so well in a multitude of spring and PCP rifles. I expected great things from it. Alas, it was not to be.

Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exacts went into this group, which measures 1.187 inches between centers. It isn’t as good as I had hoped for this pellet.

Well, the results could not be any clearer. This rifle loves the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo to the exclusion of the other premium pellets I tried. It also develops the greatest power with this pellet, so nothing is lost by using it.

The HW 100 is also very sensitive to its fill pressure. As long as you stay within the boundaries, the rifle is capable of incredible accuracy; stray out on either side, and the pellets will wander.

The bottom line
If I could justify keeping this fine rifle, I would. But that isn’t going to happen. I already own several accurate PCPs, and my gun storage facility can only hold so much. So, we’ll be shipping it back to Pyramyd Air very soon. Whoever wants to own this particular beautiful tackdriver should request serial number 1921933.

Dr. Ungier’s answers
Now, we have some answers about protective eyewear questions and related topics from Dr. Mirfee Ungier.

Q. Is polycarbonate OK for the applications we are talking about (pellets and BB’s)?

A. Polycarbonate is more than OK as a safety glass material. ANSI standards have moved entirely to polycarbonate and away from plastics like CR39 (industrial plastic). It may scratch more easily, but maintains its integrity and protective function the best.

Q. If polycarbonate lenses take an impact, does that mean they’re done and you have to get new ones? I believe that’s what they tell us about bike helmets.

A. Polycarbonate can take impacts without cracking or chipping, but you do have to look at it. Especially rimless ones may chip. If there’s any visible defect, replace them. It is much cheaper than replacing an eye.

Q. What are the long-term effects on a person’s vision from frequent use of rifle scopes?

A. I am not aware of any downside of using scopes. People do all the time. If anyone using a scope notices a problem with their vision, they should, of course, get an eye exam. I think of people who use scopes are quite aware of what they are and are not seeing. When they come to me, they are usually better able to communicate than people who do not use their eyes as much. Using eyes is a good thing.

Q. What adverse effects can class III laser sights have on a person’s vision, and how much (or how little) exposure does it take for damage to occur?

A. I am not aware of a study regarding laser time exposure and damage to the eyes. These may not be at the nastier wavelengths, but all lasers by definition are highly coherent beams that can pack a punch. I use red beam aimers for directing other wavelengths into the eyes for therapeutic reasons, and I still try to avoid the center vision. Short glances into a laser scope will probably not cause harm in the short term, but we never recommend it, and you certainly wouldn’t play with them.

Q. What should we do if the unthinkable happens and someone is struck in the eye? What should we do while transporting the individual to the closest ER? What are the emergency first-aid procedures that we should follow?

A. If a serious eye injury occurs, there is no on-the-spot treatment you can do. In fact, most important is to not press on the eye. It is OK to shield it, but pressure could turn a bad injury into a worse one. Then proceed as quickly as possible to an emergency room in a hospital that is equipped to do eye surgery. Calling ahead to be sure would be great. If you are far off the beaten track, then any emergency facility would be OK. During working hours, you could see if there is an ophthalmologist (I mean ophthalmologist, not optometrist or optician, because we may be talking surgery) in town to examine and expedite treatment. Otherwise, call an optometrist for recommendation for the closest facility.

Q. I was wondering if the age of Tom’s old safety glasses could have contributed to their easy destruction. Do time and sunlight degrade the efficiency of protective safety glasses? For instance, what’s the shortest time period in which you should you trust the material integrity of your glasses and be safe while shooting?

A. Safety glasses scratch, age and degrade. Old ones are better than none, but my optician recommends replacing them at least every 2 years.

What about dual-power airguns?

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Rod Harris is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card.

Sarah’s dad (Rod Harris) uploaded this picture, titled “Sarah’s first airgun.” Notice the target at Sarah’s right…it’s a nerf target. Looks like Sarah’s already had some shooting practice.

Before we begin, I have some pictures to show Matt61, who’s installing a reloading press. Matt, the press you see here is a Forster Co-Ax press that generates the maximum force with the lowest input. I can do operations with one finger that takes a lot more effort on other presses. As a consequence, the press puts very little strain on the bench on which it’s mounted. I have it mounted to a one-inch plank that I attach to a plastic workbench with two wood clamps. You’ll see it in the pictures.

Looking down from the top, the base of the press is bolted to the right side of the plank. It overhangs the workbench by about four inches to allow room for the mechanism to move. You can see the two wood clamps that hold the plank to the workbench.

This shows the press bolted to the plank. One of the bolts has no washer, but the other three do. You can also see how far the plank overhangs the workbench.

You can see how the shellholder at the bottom of the press raises and lowers, guided by the twin steel rods. This press multiplies force more efficiently than any other reloading press made. Hence, jobs that are normally difficult, such as full-length resizing rifle cases, are a breeze.

Today’s report
Today’s blog was suggested by a question (actually several ) from reader wprejs, who wanted to know if airguns with dual power were a hot idea. Like all things, the answer is not a simple “yes” or “no.” It’s more of a “sometimes.”

Variable power is not new
Back before there were cartridge arms, the idea of modifying a gun’s power was easy, simple and straightforward. You simply loaded more or less gunpowder. But when shooters did this, they soon learned that their guns preferred one load above all others, and that was the load they committed to memory — the one load that worked best.

Fast-forward to the American West and the dawn of cartridge arms. In the 1870s onward, a similar thing happened when Winchester and Colt chambered their guns for the same cartridges. You could shoot your .44 Winchester Centerfire (.44-40) cartridge in both your 1873 carbine and your 1873 Colt Peacemaker. That was very handy for the man who planned to be away from civilization for long periods of time.

But in the early part of the 20th century, cartridge manufacturers started loading this caliber and similar cartridges with smokeless powder, and that changed everything. There were smokeless powders that worked best in longer barrels, and others that worked best in short barrels. Although the cartridge remains identical in every other way, they started selling .44-40 cartridges for rifles only and others in the same caliber just for handguns. Once they started doing that, they also started loading the rifle cartridges to levels beyond the potential strength of the revolvers. Once that happened, it was especially critical that you use the correct ammunition in the right firearm.

But this really isn’t what wprejs was talking about. I told you about it only to lay the foundation of this story. What we’re concerned with here are airguns that shoot at two different power levels. I’ll get to that, but we have to continue with firearms for a little longer.

There are some classic dual-power firearms in the world today. Perhaps the best-known of all of them is the western-style revolver that’s chambered for both the .22 long rifle and the .22 Winchester Magnum. To achieve this, the gun must have two different cylinders, because the external dimensions of the cartridges are so different that the long rifle cartridge would burst if fired in the larger .22 Magnum chamber. The western style is used because that is a gun in which the cylinder is easy to remove. A double-action revolver would be much more difficult to switch over and also more costly to produce.

There’s just one problem with this. The bullets of the two cartridges are of slightly different diameters. The bullet of a .22 Magnum measures 0.224 inches, while the .22 long rifle bullet measures 0.223 inches. Ah, but the .22 long rifle bullet is also made of relatively pure lead, and therefore will upset (swell) when it’s smacked in the tail by the force of the burning gunpowder. This allows gunmakers to use it in a barrel that is one-thousandth of an inch too large.

The result is mediocre accuracy. Oh, you can hit a can at 30 feet, just don’t expect to shoot to the same standard as a Smith & Wesson K22 or a Colt Woodsman. But, by keeping the cost of these guns low and the fun value high, they remain very popular.

Other popular dual-caliber guns are revolvers chambered for both .357 Magnum and 9mm ammo. Or .45 Colt and .45 ACP rounds. Or .40 caliber and 10mm ammo. The list goes on, but in most cases the results are similar. Let’s take the .357 that’s also chambered for the 9mm cartridge. I happen to own one of these — a Ruger Blackhawk. With the .357 Magnum cylinder that also shoots .38 Special, by the way, I get the power I want. With the 9mm cylinder, I get the ability to shoot inexpensive ammo that also doesn’t recoil very much. But my barrel is bored to .357 inches, so the 9mm bullets that are .355 inches and .356 inches are really too small. They do work and they work very well, I’m happy to say, but they’re not optimum.

This Ruger Blackhawk Convertible has one cylinder for .357 Magnum and .38 Special cartridges and another for 9mm cartridges. It works well, though the 9mm bullet is too small for the barrel.

One handgun combo that works very well is the .45 Colt that has a .45 ACP cylinder. The bore sizes of these two cartridges used to be vastly different (0.457 inches to 0.452 inches, respectively), but the ammunition and gun manufacturers have evolved the .45 Colt cartridge to use bullets measuring 0.452 inches. Now everything works well. The two cartridges have similar power in factory ammunition, but the .45 Colt uses heavier bullets and can be loaded much more powerfully than the standard load.

So, dual-power firearms do exist and they do work. Some work quite well and make it possible for a shooter who doesn’t reload to have several power selections for one firearm. Without getting into the topic of subcaliber chambers for centerfire rifles (.32 ACP pistol cartridges being shot in a .30-06), I’m going to switch the focus over to airguns.

Now the airguns
Like firearms, there are dual-power airguns that work well and others that don’t do as much as a new buyer might think. I guess I should begin by talking about the dual-fuel concept that Crosman pioneered with the Benjamin Discovery rifle. You can operate the gun on either air or CO2 and get two different performance levels from it. Since the barrel remains the same, no accuracy is lost, but you do have to sight-in for the power source you have selected. Air gives fewer shots at greater power, and CO2 does just the reverse.

Perhaps the most outstanding example of this effect is found in the three AirForce rifles, the Talon, Talon SS and Condor. On air, they each perform differently but all are powerful. Switch over to CO2, and you get hundreds of shots per tank at a much-reduced power level. This idea of running the rifles on CO2 was first conceived by Pyramyd Air owner, Josh Ungier, who went to AirForce with a prototype valve and tank. He had to sign up for a large run of product, but he brought the concept to market by doing so.

There’s also a CO2 gun with two different power settings that works really well — the vintage Crosman Mark I and II Target pistols. The Mark I is in .22, while the Mark II is in .177 and BB. Both guns function well on low power, where they conserve gas, and on high power where they’re accurate at longer ranges. Of course, the sighting changes for each power level; but if you can stand that, it really works well. These guns are no longer made, but they can be found in working condition for around $100.

Crosman’s Mark I and II target pistols have two power levels that really work, because the low-power setting saves on gas, while the high-power setting is best for longer distances.

But the guns wprejs specifically asked about were springers, and that’s the one powerplant that does not do well on dual power levels. Let’s take the Beeman P1 (HW45) as an example. Cock it to the first stop, and you’re on low power. Pull the topstrap forward to the second stop, and you’re on high power. The problem is that the gun shoots to two different points of aim when you do. On low power, the gun shoots much higher than on high power. In fact, it’s difficult to adjust the rear sight low enough to get on target at 10 meters on low power.

A large and impressive spring-piston air pistol, the Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

On the first sear detent, the pistol produces low power.

Pull the topstrap further forward, and the gun goes to high power. It’s just as hard to cock to low power as it is to go all the way to high power.

The recoil and noise is the same on both power levels; and since there’s no cost difference, there really is no reason to ever shoot on low power. In the 15 years I’ve owned my P1, I’ve probably fired fewer than 100 shots on low power, compared to several thousand on high. It isn’t so much a fault of the gun as not adding anything to the equation. Why shoot on low power when high is just as easy and more accurate?

What would work, in my opinion, is a spring gun that has never been built. A spring rifle that cocks easily (maybe 12 lbs.) and shoots at 5-6 foot-pounds on low power, or you have the option of cocking all the way with much more effort, a longer piston stroke and generating serious power (16 foot-pounds in .177). You could shoot the gun on low power for casual plinking or go to high when you want to hunt or dispatch pests. You’d still have to make sight changes when making the switch, but this rifle would be so different at both power levels that it would be worth the effort.

Dual-caliber guns
The attraction is even greater for a gun that comes in two or more calibers. The dual-caliber airgun has existed for over 75 years and is basically a good idea but has been implemented incorrectly in recent years. Instead of making quality airguns, importers have been buying cheaply made Chinese breakbarrels with interchangable barrels and then wondering why they don’t sell well after the initial surge drops away.

The Chinese can screw up anything they get their hands on, so stay away from them unless you know the product is good from test reports. If a quality airgunmaker were to create a dual-caliber air rifle that really worked as the customer thought it should, it would probably sell well.

But wait, such a gun is already made! AirForce sells four different caliber barrels in three different lengths for their three sporting rifles. These barrels are accurate and do change the way the guns perform. The Talon SS is quiet with its 12-inch barrel, or it can roar with twice the power when you install a 24-inch barrel.

Is there more?
You bet there is! Wprejs, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of variable power airguns in this report. I could go on for days with this discussion, but to what benefit? Dual-power guns exist, and sometimes they work the way you think they should. Other times, they don’t. But that isn’t the real issue.

When you ask for dual power in an airgun, you’re usually asking for two guns in one. Such guns do exist; I’ve already talked about them here. The AirForce guns are excellent examples of this. But you’re not going to get something that works this way and also spend under $200. Just the barrels on the AirForce guns cost almost that much.

I haven’t even mentioned the Whiscombe rifle that comes in four different calibers and has air transfer port limiters that can be adjusted to any power level under the maximum possible. But at about $10,000 for a complete Whiscombe set like this, you probably won’t be buying one real soon.

What you probably really want is a gun that does what you want it to do when you want to do it, and that’s a very different thing. Instead of a Swiss Army airgun, you want one that you can learn to shoot so well that it will do almost anything asked of it. That’s the subject of another blog.

Does glass-bedding your air rifle improve accuracy? Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Pyramyd Air’s facebook site was running a special Father’s Day Edition of the Big Shot of the Week contest. The winner is Holly Thoman Hearn, who posted the following, which we assume is her husband and son. Holly will receive a $100 gift eCard from Pyramyd Air.

With the above photo, Holly Thoman Hearn won the 2011 Father’s Day Special Edition of the Big Shot of  Week contest.

Today’s guest blogger is Fred. If you’ve spent any time at all reading this blog and the comments, you already know that Fred is deeply involved in airgunning and loves to modify and improve his guns to get the most out of them. This time, Fred’s going to show you how he glass-bedded one of his Nitro Piston rifles.

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

Guest bloggers must 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.

Take it away, Fred!

by Fred of the Peoples’ Republik of New Jersey

Benjamin Trail NP XL

In my last blog, I detailed how I did a recrowning job on my Benjamin Trail NP XL. This is a gas-spring rifle made in China for the Benjamin Company. I was able to reduce a 5-shot group from .80 inches to .40 inches. That was at 28 feet and was considered a successful modification by many who read the blog. However, at 30 yards, I was getting 1.50-inch groups. Not quite good enough for hunting at this distance.

A representative target of what I was getting with the Benjamin Trail NP XL at 30 yards.

Our favorite Russian blog reader, duskwight, who has designed his own air rifle and is hoping a manufacturer will decide to take his design and bring it to life, suggested that my next step should be to glass-bed the rifle to prevent any movement between the action and the stock. Due to manufacturing tolerances, there’s normally ample room for play between the action and stock. The cheaper the rifle, the less care is taken in holding manufacturing tolerances to the engineers’ specifications and the less accurate the rifle. The process involves introducing a liquified fiberglass compound to the rifle stock and allowing the action to bed in as the compound flows around it and hardens, creating a custom fit that prevents the action from moving within the stock.

I started my research by going to YouTube and watching different gunsmiths – some pros, some amateurs, glass-bed their rifles. Next, I researched the glass bedding kits. After reading product reviews and the product manuals, I decided on  Miles Gilbert Bedrock kit from Battenfeld Industries. I selected it mainly because of the claim that their kit contained “the most comprehensive, illustrated instructions ever offered to take you from start to finish with your bedding project.” I was sold on this kit when I read that their kit included everything I could possibly need to bed my rifle.

To remove the Trail’s action from the stock, I have to remove 3 screws, one on either side of the stock, plus the rear triggerguard screw. With the screws out, the action fell out of the stock and my first confusion arose. When glass-bedding a centerfire rifle, all the YouTube videos showed the action typically resting on the bottom of the stock. There were no moving parts to be concerned with. Not so with the Trail. As with any breakbarrel rifle, you have a cocking lever and a guide for the lever moving within a channel carved into the bottom of the stock. In the Trail’s case, there was an additional lever connected from the end of the cocking link to the trigger assembly, which serves as the anti-beartrap device. The stock has a semi-circle inlet above this channel, and that’s where the action rests.

The curved part of the stock where the action rests. Below that is the channel for the cocking lever.

Most centerfire rifles have a recoil lug on the action that fits into the stock. This air rifle doesn’t, as there’s no place to put it due to the cocking linkage. Benjamin put a removable recoil lug at the end of the stock. The trigger lug fits into the stock just below the compression tube.

The rear of the triggerguard screws into the bolt that is holding the trigger unit in the rifle, drawing the action down to the stock. The recoil lug fits very loosely around the bolt and within the stock. This looseness could allow the action to move around within the stock and affect accuracy.

The rear of the action with the bolt that secures the trigger group. Foreground is the recoil lug that fits around that bolt and then slides into the rear of the stock.

A closer look, front to rear, at the inlet for the cocking lever.

Where to put the bedding compound?
Another question. Many of the YouTube videos talked about pillaring the action. What this entails is drilling out the screw holes and inserting a piece of aluminum roundstock with a pre-drilled hole in it, with the end curved to fit against the rifle action. If you look again at the screw holes, only one — the rear trigger hole — has any potential for this improvement. The forearm screw holes are too thin for a useful pillar.

That rear screw hole is the only place to put an aluminum pillar.

First, I drilled a half-inch hole to enlarge that screw hole. Of course, the wooden piece forming the right (forward) part of the hole fell out. Next, I cut a piece of half-inch aluminum round stock using a mitre box to keep the cut end as square to the length as possible.

Aluminum round stock cut with hacksaw.

Using my handy dandy mill file and a T-square, I filed the end as flat as possible…at least within my set of skills.

I actually got pretty close to making this surface perfectly perpendicular to the axis of the round stock.

Finally, I drilled an off-center hole (not by design), and my pillar for the rifle was complete. Using some epoxy, I glued the pillar into the enlarged screw hole in the stock. I figured I could always make another pillar and this time drill that hole centered — but wonder of wonders, everything fit!

I used JB Weld to hold the pillar in the stock. Darned thing worked. Notice on either side of the pillar and toward the rear of the rifle is a slot for the recoil lug to slide into.

Crosman Optimus .177 rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos and test by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1
Part 2

Crosman’s Optimus offers a lot of power for a low price.

Today is accuracy day for the Crosman Optimus, and I know that a lot of readers are watching this rifle for all that it offers. We were pleasantly surprised in the velocity test to learn that the Optimus is a stable and smooth-shooting breakbarrel rifle. Now, we find out if it matters.

Choked barrels
The first thing Mac noted was the Optimus barrel has no choke. I’ve seen comments like this on customer reviews as well. Here’s the scoop on choked barrels. When a spring-piston gun fires, the sudden air blast forces the pellet’s skirt out into the rifling. If it didn’t fit the bore well when it was loaded, it usually does after firing.

But PCP guns don’t have a sudden air blast. Their air flow lasts a longer time, and as a result they don’t flare pellets. So, barrelmakers put a small constriction — called a choke — at the muzzle end of the barrel for PCP guns. That way all the pellets are sized uniformly when they exit the muzzle. With springers, that isn’t needed because they’re sizing the pellets when they fire.

Often, when the front sight dovetails get swaged into the barrel, it upsets some metal to the inside of the bore. The result feels like a choke when you push a pellet through the bore. But the Lothar Walther people and Hans Weihrauch, Jr., both told me they intentionally do not choke barrels meant for spring rifles.

Today, however, very few manufacturers put dovetails in the barrels for the front sight. The front sight on the Optimus is glued in place, so it doesn’t have any swaging near the muzzle. Hence, the lack of a choke. Edith checked on this for us and determined that this is correct.

For this test, Mac mounted a 3-9x50AO Leapers scope with illumination in a one-piece BKL cantilevered mount. From the photo, you might think that this mount would have some problems with the Optimus’ recoil, which is not insignificant, but that wasn’t the case. This mount also comes with 0.007 inches of droop compensation to get your breakbarrel back into the aim point.

Does the scope look unbalanced? Mac says it remained stable and solid throughout the test. Because it’s a BKL mount, you don’t have to worry about movement when the gun recoils.

Mac was concerned that with such a large scope and only two screws per scope cap there would be some movement, but he monitored it closely and the scope never moved. To mount the BKL base to the rifle, you should first remove all the oil and grease from the dovetail grooves. Mac also advises putting a drop of oil on the threads of the mounting screws, because when they get tight they start to pop as they turn in their holes. Oiling will lessen that but apparently will not allow them to loosen in operation. At least that’s what he reports. I think BKL advises leaving the screws dry.

The accuracy test
Okay, here we go. First up is the pellet that grouped the worst off a rest at 30 yards — RWS Superdomes. Yes, Mac’s favorite .177 pellet did not do well in the Optimus, grouping 10 shots in 2.4 inches at 30 yards.

Too bad for Mac! His favorite RWS Superdome pellet grouped 10 in 2.4 inches at 30 yards.

Only slightly better was the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier. Six of them went into a group measuring 2 incheseven. He became frustrated by the seeming inaccuracy of the rifle at this point and didn’t finish this group. I guess because there aren’t ten shots, I can’t even say this group is better than the other.

There are only six holes in this target because Mac got disgusted and quit. They measure 2 inches between the two farthest centers.

Lesson for newcomers to airguns
At times like this, we all become frustrated and our frustrations are often borne out in what happens next. Sometimes, things change unexpectedly, which is why it is so important to shoot every shot with the perfect artillery hold, so at the end of it all you can say that you did your best.

The next pellet Mac tried was the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet — the so-called “lite” Premier. It did much better, by cutting the heavier Premier group in half. Yes, 10 Premier lites delivered a 1-inch group at 30 yards.

Premier lites made this ten-shot, one-inch group at 30 yards. This is much better, but we’re still not shouting.

Then Mac tried the 8.4-grain JSB Exact dome pellet. Since Premier lites did so well, he had high hopes for this pellet, but the best he could do for 10 shots was a 1.16-inch group.

The JSB Exact 8.4-grain dome shot ten into a 1.16-inch group at 30 yards.

Finally, Mac tried the 10.2-grain JSB Exact dome. Now, because the 10.5-grain Premier did so much worse than the 7.9-grain Premier, you might expect this pellet to do poorly as well, but it didn’t. In fact, it gave us the best 10-shot group of the day. Measuring just 0.74 inches at 30 yards, this is the pellet that proves the Optimus can shoot. This is why you have to keep on testing, even when you think you know the answer (I’m talking to myself).

Sometimes you’re surprised! The JSB Exact 10.2-grain dome was the most accurate in the test, grouping 10 shots into 0.74 inches at 30 yards.

The bottom line
The Optimus is a fine starter air rifle, as long as you understand that it takes a lot of skill to shoot well. The trigger is not good. Be prepared for that. So far, the best pellet isn’t coming from a discount store. But if you want to get into the game at this power level and are willing to both learn and use the artillery hold, this is a great value.

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