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.

99 Responses to “What about dual-power airguns?”

  • pcp4me Says:

    BB,

    Great report! Good discussion of the different ways to achieve “dual power”. But you left what I consider the best one out. Or are you saving it for another part of this report?

    The Benjamin Discovery. Very low in cost, extremely accurate, and for about $5 worth of parts and maybe 10 to 15 minutes of time you can make it into the “ultimate” dual power gun.

    I did just that by putting a power adjuster on mine. One stainless 10 – 32 bolt and a nylon 10 – 32 flat head bolt. The nylon one became the spring guide by turning it down in my drill press so it fit inside the factory spring and the end cap.

    Now my gun goes from 725 fps to 975 fps with air and about 200 fps slower with CO2 and a .22 caliber CHP. So now I have a large range of power settings going from around 525 fps to a high of 975 fps. Probably could breat 1000 with light lead pellets.

    Also my Sumatra 2500 carbine does even better doing any where from 350 fps on low to over 1100 fps with a .177 CHP My best pellet with it though is the 16.1 grain Eun Jin doing right at 985 fps average on max power setting. It works on a different principal.

    As I understand it, the Sumatra has a power wheel that changes how much of the valve pin is exposed when the hammer hits it. the further out it is, the more the valve opens up and the more air is dumped on the shot. So it controls velocity by how far the valve opens on each shot, where as the Disco power adjuster increases the power of the hammer blow on the pin, allowing the valve to open further and stay open longer at the higher power ranges.

    Just my $0.02!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      pcp4me,

      I did consider the adjustment you mention but left it out because it isn’t really just a dual power level, but rather an infinite one within limits. As you said, I could have gone one and on about this. There is a .25-caliber spring piston pistol that’s very rare that has three power levels.

      B.B.

    • Mr B. Says:

      pcp4me,

      We are in agreement with the Dual Fuel capability of the Benjamin Discovery. Looks like I’m going to have to put that power adjustment mod on mine though. Have you ran yours through the chrony on CO2?

      Bruce

  • twotalon Says:

    Edith…

    Another spammer or virus spreader just hit the March 31 blog.

    twotalon

  • Al Cook Says:

    Good article. I think this is why I love the multi-pumps- you can tailor the power to the situation at hand.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Al Cook,

      I thought about the multi-pumps when I wrote this report, Al, but I didn’t mention them because they have more than just dual power. Like you I really enjoy shooting multi-pumps, though I also like a good springer that can be readied to go in seconds.

      Thanks for weighing in and welcome to the blog. I believe this is the first time you have posted, is it not? :)

      B.B.

  • kevin Says:

    Dual power/multiple calibers.

    Wow what a huge subject. Can’t overlook shotgun/rifle combinations. Over under please.

    Agree with pcp4me. A pcp with easily adjustable power is many guns in one.

    I like mid powered springers so most of mine are in .177. Even if they came with other calibers and were accurate I’d shoot them with the .177 barrel most of the time.

    Dual fuel is attractive to me. Dual calibers within a springer has little appeal to me. The exceptions (for those that are stumped for birthday present ideas for me) would be a whiscombe or webley mark II.

    kevin

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Kevin,

      The Webley Mark II was the gun I was thinking about when I said the dual-caliber idea was actually 75 years old and worked well. Webley did it the right way for their day.

      I owned a drilling when I was in Germany in the 1970s. It was a double-barreled 12 gauge with a .30-06 underneath. I bought an insert adaptor so I could shoot .22 Mag. out of one of the shotgun barrels and at one time I actually toyed with the idea of buying Briley tubes in all gauges and several cartridge adaptors for the rifle barrel. An arsenal in a case!

      However, the gun was of very limited practical value. Rather than being many good things, it was actually none of them. I had other shotguns that I liked better and other rifles that worked better as well. That was what unsold me on the idea of combo guns.

      B.B.

      • kevin Says:

        B.B.,

        Interesting.

        Seems that there are very few guns you haven’t had first hand experience with. Ever stop to visualize all the guns you’ve owned gathered in one place? Good size warehouse.

        I think you’ve summed it up pretty well. When a gun tries to be too many things it usually becomes a series of compromises.

        I’m off to the cabin. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

        kevin

      • Robert from Arcade Says:

        BB: You are right about the drillings. They are heavy as a shotgun , and there’s nothing more humiliating than touching off the rifle barrel when you intended to shoot your grouse with the shotgun barrel. Of course , if you hit it with the rifle bullet you can lie and say you did it deliberately as it would have been too easy a shot with the shotgun.I have a couple of the Savage .22/shotgun combo’s and have done that with them also. More of a useful concept where you can’t have many different guns.

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          Robert,

          You know, it’s funny that you bring up the Savage over-unders combo guns. I’ve had two and before getting them I thought they would be so perfect, but after I got them I couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. The .222 Remington over 20 gauge is a prime example. The use the shotgun barrel the scope has to come off, so you have to re-zero every time you remount the scope. And who is going to shoot a .222 without a scope?

          Yet as tough as I talk, there is one Savage I’ve never owned and still want to — the .22LR/.410 combo. It is the most classic of all the Savage 24s and really seems to make some sense to me.

          I guess we never learn. :)

          B.B.

          • Robert from Arcade Says:

            BB; I have the .22/.410 , the old one with the tenite stock that moulds in humid weather, and the sliding button selector on the side of the receiver instead of the hammer type. It wears a Williams peep, and it is a gun for the trapper, camper and farmer. I also have a later wooden stocked,.22/20 gauge version also ,but still prefer the .410 over the 20 gauge. The .410 shotgun shells are more compact. I do think that the hammer selector is better than the old siding button which on mine has broken once and now are getting hard to find.
            I found that my .410 barrel will shoot slugs into nice tight groups but a foot low. I solved that problem by using a shallow groove filed in the center top of the peep sights removable aperature. Hows that for some practical country gunsmithing!

  • Mr B. Says:

    Kevin,

    What would be your preference in wood and checkering on your whiscombe to be?

    Bruce

    • kevin Says:

      Mr B.,

      No preference. Beggars can’t be choosy.

      kevin

    • BG_Farmer Says:

      Mr. B,
      Kevin’s just too modest to come out and say it — he told me if he had a Whiscombe he’d want it to be black bedliner, with all the screws faux chromed.

  • Mr B. Says:

    B.B.,

    I am still more than pleased with my AirForce Talon SS with both the 12 and 24 inch barrels using either HPA or CO2 depending upon what my shooting requirements are at the time. The 12 inch barrel on CO2 is the ultimate back yard plinker, especially with AirHogs shroud and a paint ball shop’s cover for the tank, no ping or muzzle report. Swap the CO2 tank for the HPA tank and the occasional opossum or crow is history.

    There is on more gun I’s add to the dual power list and that is the Crosman 180. If I knew how to find the link to your blog on this gun I’d include it here.

    Bruce

    Bruce

  • lloyd Says:

    BB,
    Your comment about the Swiss Army airgun strikes true with me. Unless the “dual” whatever change can be done almost instantaneously, I will just find a favorite set-up and stick with it, and grudgingly change it when I absolutely have to. I have a few tools like that too, where you end up with 2 “compromise” tools in one.

    I always enjoy your discussions of the various PB calibers, but am still baffled by the variety of methods of identification: .44-40, .45-70, .30-30, .30-06. And it seems that more often than not, the bullet diameters are very different from the nomenclature.

    Regarding the actual diameters of .22LR and the 22 Magnum bullets, I guess someone has made barrels that have a little bit choke at the muzzle so that both the LR and Mag could possibly be accurate in the same barrel?
    Thanks,
    Lloyd

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Lloyd,

      Yes, and the cartridge designation gets even weirder than you state. Like a Sharps .45 2-1/10″ (.45 Government or .45/70) or a Colt .38-40 that is actually a .40 caliber round (.401″ bullet) holding 40 grains of black powder.

      As far as the .22s go you might be right. A slight choke would do it.

      And let’s not even start on the DIFFERENCE between the .223 Remington and the military 5.56mm round! It is to laugh! (And yes, I am well-aware that there are slight differences in the approved pressures, bullet weights, amount of leade in the bore, etc.)

      B.B.

      • Paul Says:

        B.B.,

        You are right – the old black powder rounds were all over the place with names. There were even some “Everlasting” versions of otherwise identical rounds that had very thick case walls so they could be reloaded many times. The chamber had to be cut to a larger diameter than that of the regular version.

        Paul

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          Paul,

          Everlasting cases! What wouldn’t I give for 20 Everlasting Ballard .38-55 cases? Alas, they are now collector’s items and sold by the each. Nobody bothers shooting them anymore.

          B.B.

    • pete zimmerman Says:

      A Swiss Army Knife is a good 3″ knife, a passable screwdriver, a mediocre can opener, a modest to poor cork screw, a scratched up magnifier (on a few models such as the Explorer), and a really poor jeweler’s screwdriver. An inaccurate and hard-to-set altimeter, useful tweezers, and a fine toothpick. None of the tools is as good as you could get for a few bucks at the corner hardware store. Compromises are made.

      But it all comes in one compact package, is almost always in my pocket, and frankly I’ve been in situations where even the poorest tool was infinitely better than none at all.

      Sounds as if multi-purpose guns work out much the same way.

      • lloyd Says:

        Pete,
        Sounds like you have used your Swiss Army Knife for just about everything and it has gotten you out of a pickle more than once. I understand. I keep a LeatherMan knock-off in my truck and it’s pitiful straight blade screwdriver came to my rescue just recently. It took 10 minutes to do a 30 second job, but it did it!
        Lloyd

        • J-F Says:

          I have a Gerber multi-tool with the accessories that lock in place, saved me lots of time and the locking part is a real treat when you have to apply some force to it not having to fear it closing on your precious digits.

          J-F

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        Pete,

        I carry a Swiss Army knife with me every time I am away from home on a trip. I have the Swiss Champ model with 31 tools. I would love to have the new super-knife that costs $1,400 and is four times wider than it is long, but I doubt I’d ever do much besides look at it.

        Swiss Army knives are truly handy, unlike the muti-purpose airguns that don’t do anything well.

        B.B.

        • pete zimmerman Says:

          I’ve carried a S=A Knife in my pocket virtually every day of my life (certain air trips with no checked luggage marking the exceptions) for almost exactly 50 years. It is truly handy. But let’s not kid ourselves: for tough jobs individual tools do a better job. But you cannot have them with you when you need them. I remember needing a phillips-head screwdriver to field strip a new laptop while away on a trip. The Swiss Army knife was there and did the job (one of the memory modules had come unseated and I needed access to the mother board to snap it in again).

          Dual power air guns may not do the job; I’ve never used one. But they seem to be trying to be a S-A K (and perhaps failing).

          BB, what about dual *fuel* airguns, CO2 and compressed air? I would like to hear your thoughts on those.

          pete

          • B.B. Pelletier Says:

            Pete,

            Dual fuel guns work just fine. The barrel remains the same so the accuracy remains, and the power differential is large enough to make a difference.

            B.B.

        • Wulfraed Says:

          I would love to have the new super-knife that costs $1,400 and is four times wider than it is long, but I doubt I’d ever do much besides look at it.

          With those dimensions it really needs to become a modular knife; that is, it should split apart in units two or three “spacers” wide, so one can reconfigure the position of tools, or even if some of the tools are carried…

  • wprejs Says:

    Thanks, BB I see what you mean and Ill disregard the dual power when looking for my new airgun and focus on more important things.

  • Matt61 Says:

    I just love our photo winner. I’ve heard about the joy of kids getting their first airguns but have never actually seen it. I probably looked like this when I got my airsoft sniper rifle a few years ago, and then my IZH 61…. I think that the pink airgun looks very appropriate in these circumstances (and only these!). I hope in a short time we get another picture of this young lady looking like our other winner as she points confidently to her fine groups.

    B.B., thanks a lot for the excellent pictures demonstrating how to mount a press. I’m curious, though, about the old cliche about the chain being only as strong as its weakest link. By moving the clamps from the press to the board mounting the press I would think that you are merely displacing their limitations from the pressing operation not eliminating them. But obviously not. Well, my specialized workbench just arrived yesterday so hopefully I will be able to attach the press to that with its pre-drilled holes. In anticipation of this, I am already turning my attention to the Rube Goldberg powder measuring apparatus. But at least I can say that all the parts have arrived and the secret to their operation is buried somewhere in there….

    How interesting about dual power. So, am I to understand that my Ruger Single Six is more accurate in .22 WMR than in .22 LR? I hadn’t suspected that or even thought much about it since the WMR is significantly more expensive and I shoot it less. But it make sense that if you cannot make a perfect fit for both that you try to make one good and the other less good rather than making both mediocre. But there are other factors too. I suspect that the 1/1000 advantage of the WMR bore fit is offset by the significantly greater recoil of that caliber. And it’s all relative anyway. If my .22LR accuracy at 25 yards is mediocre, what shall by said of my .45 ACP shooting at that distance….

    Slinging Lead, that is my kind of pellet trap all the way.

    BG_Farmer, okay, I’m actually a little relieved to hear that you didn’t fabricate everything from scratch. It would have been like the scene in the Steve Reeve film Hercules where he hurls a discus out of sight (after much flexing of muscles). But when he turns around smiling to face his audience, he sees them all running away from fright. Very nice job fitting your parts together. Say, I’m assuming that you have a rifled barrel. The story is that because bullets fit the rifling of muzzleloaders, the shooters had to hammer the round down through the barrel in a very slow process. Is that what you do? And how did you fashion the stock? Did you start with a tree or did you get a stock blank to refine? And how do you have such a nice set-up of like-minded people to shoot standing offhand with you? Do you belong to a local club?

    Matt61

    • Victor Says:

      I still want to know about that rubber stamp for making targets. Great solution for target making on any kind of paper.

      • Slinging Lead Says:

        Howdy Victor

        I had the stamp made at rubberstamps.com. I emailed them a 10m air rifle bullseye, and specified the 3″X3″ stamp. I believe it was about $25. It works perfectly, and saves $$$ on printer ink and xeroxes. Now any old scrap of paper or cardboard becomes a target.

    • BG_Farmer Says:

      Matt,
      Sorry to disappoint. You have defined step three — forge barrel, make lock, start with tree, etc. May be a while :). The stock was a shaped piece of wood with a barrel channel and ramrod hole, in this case it was originally intended for a Lancaster (much different look), so all I had to do shape it further to my liking, drill holes, and inlet parts in. So I really didn’t do that much…mainly I made all the “furniture” (e.g., triggerguard, patchbox, buttplate, ramrod thimbles, sights, sideplate, nosecap, toeplate…). That is something I had never tried before, except for a patchbox, but it made sense in this case because there is not much for sale that remotely resembles what I wanted.

      The barrel is rifled 1:66″ for patched round ball. Most combinations (i.e. of patch and ball) start with a short starter (also called a ball-starter) to get the ball seated and down a few inches, although it is possible to load so tightly that a mallet is required to drive the load down, and many folks do. I also have loads that work well at short ranges (40 yards or so) for trailwalks and backyard shooting, and they will load with just the ramrod.

      Yes, I belong to a club of about 50 muzzleloaders just a few miles from my house. We have 2 paper matches every month and a woodswalk a few times a year. Usually attendance is about 20 or so, but it can be higher in nice weather, and much lower when temps are in 20′s :). I also know people from another club across the river and have shot their woodswalk at rendezvous. Best is that a couple of my neighbors are now into BP rifles, and we have a “backyard” mini-woodswalk set up.

      • Slinging Lead Says:

        BG

        Step 4: Start with a shovel, to dig your own iron ore, and a single walnut.

        I remember exploring the link you posted to your sportsman’s club. It is like Disneyland for shooters. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

        • BG_Farmer Says:

          SL,
          Step 4 sounds like a plan. Come on up, but its just a bunch of gun ranges on 1500 acres, what’s fun about that :)?

      • Matt61 Says:

        BG_Farmer, I’ll tell you the standard I am judging you by. At my range, I asked a guy what model of blackpowder rifle he was using and he said, “A Cabela’s.” :-)

        You’re also in a position to solve a discrepancy that has never made sense to me. The wisdom in military history is that smoothbores are very inaccurate and only effective out to 80 yards or so. And our model of a bb bouncing down a smooth tube would explain why. But then there is the big stud blackpowder shooter at my range who claimed quarter-sized off-hand groups at over 100 yards. I didn’t actually see him do this. But I fired his rifle at 25 yards off-hand and watched other people do it, and it was quite accurate–more consistent with his anecdotes than the military historians. So, what gives here. The only way I can reconcile this is to suppose that an individual who takes care patching his ball and doing other things to seat it correctly can achieve a fit to enable consistent accuracy that will be much different than a line soldier trying to load as fast as he can. What do you think?

        Matt61

        • BG_Farmer Says:

          Matt,
          I’m not sure I understand your question completely, but here is my understanding. Military smoothbores are usually inaccurate, because they were loading an undersize ball without a patch. That let them reload rapidly and the leading was not a problem due to the looseness of the ball. However, from what I’ve read, you were pretty safe past 50 yards if someone was aiming one at you. The European emphasis on formations and mass fire (hope I have the proper terms) made that acceptable, at least as long as everyone played by the same rules.

          Smoothbores with tightly patched balls, are quite a bit more accurate, but not as quick or easy to load. Honestly I have no direct experience with these, although I know people shoot them at least to 100 yards, and must be able to hold on a dinner plate at least. Possibly some irregular troops used those, but I don’t think it was a common military weapon.

          American long rifles with patched round balls were said to be accurate to 200 yards or more according to some sources during the revolution, but that may mean simply that you could hit a mans head. There was at least one documented shot (with a couple of ranging shots) at 400, I think, and anecdotal evidence in excess of that. King’s Mountain is perhaps the most famous application of the rifle’s accuracy and the advantage it gives to less formal style of warfare. Ironically, Ferguson (the British commander) was the inventor of a very advanced rifle so he might not have been completely clueless, but the Overmountain men were more accustomed to fighting Indians and were not stupid enough to attack in formation and waste shots on volleys. According to one story, either Shelby or Sevier or both instructed their men to target Ferguson, and he was shot 7 times, I believe, in what was a very short battle. The British thought the concept of shooting officers was ghastly (at least the officers thought that), but it was a good strategy which made full use of the rifle’s accuracy, even in battles where the number of rifles might have been small, which was not the case at King’s Mountain. Apparently, some British officers took to not wearing their full regalia to escape aimed fire from rifles.

          Hopefully I haven’t screwed up too many facts, yet. I don’t know about quarter sized groups at 100 yards, even with a rifle and patched balls. People I trust seem to be happy with 1.5″ or so; I can’t even do that, but I rarely shoot from the bench at 100 yards, and less than I should at all — still need to “perfect” 25 and 50 :). Quarter size groups at 50 yards is definitely possible with a rifle, although you won’t be able to cover the group with a quarter in most cases because of the size of the ball. Hope that helps.

          • pete zimmerman Says:

            Officers today certainly don’t advertise their ranks. It’s not easy to see US-type badges of rank on camo uniforms at any distance at all.

    • lloyd Says:

      Matt,
      Actually, the quick-adjust bar clamps and the board in BB’s set-up see very little force. The force multiplication and force reaction from the compound leverage in the press all take place within the cast iron frame of the press. Think of how a C-clamp can squeeze with no external reaction except a little torque from the screw. This is similar. The variable compound linkage in the press varies along the stroke from maybe a minimum of 10 to 1 to a max of 40 to one. So 10 pounds input gives at least 100 pound of force that the bench never sees. The rear-most bench clamp is the only one that sees any force. The front edge of the bench under the board serves as the fulcrum and it is maybe midpoint between the end of the press handle and the rearmost clamp, so the rear clamp sees whatever the end of the handle sees : 10 pounds. Bottom line…. plenty stout!

      BTW, I know you are going to have lots fun, sprinkled with instances of frustration, with you new reloading equipment. Luckily, BB is close at hand!
      Lloyd

      • Matt61 Says:

        Lloyd, sounds like mechanical engineering with its various stresses and loads. Well, I believe that it works. Yes, I’m inching closer to the big day. Last night I weighed grain of rice at .075 gr. :-)

        Matt61

  • Edith Gaylord Says:

    Kevin,

    A pair of used but free Tech Force low mounts are on their way to you, courtesy of Pyramyd Air.

    Edith

  • Titus Groan Says:

    Good Afternoon . Another very informative blog B.B. You really have something for everyone here.
    I need some clarification on the dimensions of the Air Arms S400 MPR Biathlon rifle. I have a chance to buy one . The store here describes the length at 36 in. I notice the same gun at Pyramid Air uses a length of 41 in. Is this the same gun. Or could I be looking at a carbine model ? Thank you for in advance.
    Titus Groan

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Titus,

      That’s a good question for Edith, who writes the product descriptions.

      Edith?

      B.B.

    • Edith Gaylord Says:

      Titus,

      The owner’s manual for the S400 Biathlon gun is located here:
      http://cdn.pyramydair.com//site/manuals/s400-biathlon-manual-ISS1.pdf

      If you look at page 24 of the manual, you’ll see that there are two versions of the gun: Sporter & Precision. Pyramyd Air sells the Precision model, which is 41 inches long. The Sporter model is 36-3/8 inches long.

      Edith

      • Titus Groan Says:

        Many thanks Edith. Now I know to who I address what questions to. I now know the gun must be the sporter. It also comes with the same metal butt pad found on the EV2. This will give me 14 inches of pull too. Thank you for your time and enquiries.
        Titus

  • Wulfraed Says:

    Boy… Doesn’t that Crosman look suspiciously like a first generation Ruger Standard model .22…

    In the discussion of the AirForce stuff, I notice no mention was made of the /other/ tank — still high pressure air, but with a flow restrictor in the throat of the valve; the Micro-Meter tank. Suspect when the CO2 tank was approved, the Micro-Meter lost desirability?

    • twotalon Says:

      The flow restriction on the Micrometer tank is in the valve spring retaining cap. It’s just a pinhole, so the valve does not have free access to the main air supply. When you fire, only the air in the valve body gets used.

      As far as CO2 goes, if you don’t have anywhere around to get a fill you will have to rent a tank of CO2 and get the necessary attachments to fill it yourself.
      The micro tank is not temperature sensitive like the CO2 is. The Micro is still useful.

      twotalon

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        twotalon,

        There is even more to it than that. There is an air inlet restrictor in the back of the valve body that also has a pinhole.

        This valve came about because AirForce wanted to take their airguns to the NRA Annual Meetings range, but the NRA would only allow 10-meter-powered guns for safety reasons. The year it happened, the range was in the same hall as the exhibits, so the safety issue was a real concern. I suggested to Jogn McCaslin that we take the UK valve that was already restricted to 12 foot-pounds by the valve stem and further restrict it with the pinhole in the rear, as we had done for another project.

        It worked perfectly and we ended up with what we called the double restricted valve. That name was changed to MicroMeter when we discovered that the valve was also adjustable within limits.

        B.B.

        • twotalon Says:

          I guess I would have figured that out when I had mine apart if I had removed the valve stem. From the front it just looks like a Talon valve.
          I had it apart because it was sucking a lot of air. The spring retaining cap was loose and not putting any pressure on the valve to close it.

          twotalon

          • B.B. Pelletier Says:

            twotalon,

            You would not have been able to see the second restrictor unless you removed the valve from the air tank. Even then you would have had to know what you were looking for.

            B.B.

            • twotalon Says:

              B.B.

              I did remove the valve from the tank. I needed to know why it was sucking as much air as a standard tank.
              With the tank empty, the valve had about 1/16″ free play with no spring pressure. Looked like it was trying to dump with every shot. PW was always set to minimum.

              MV dropped about 100 fps with 8.4 exacts after I got the retaining cap tightened up and the free movement out of the valve. Runs about 700 fps from start now.

              twotalon

              • B.B. Pelletier Says:

                twotalon,

                The rear air restrictor must be missing. You should not be able to get velocities that high from a MicroMeter valve, I don’t think. Not unless they have changed the design since I worked on it.

                B.B.

                • twotalon Says:

                  B.B.

                  That tank was used on a standard .177 TSS .
                  Without pulling out the valve stem, all I could see different from a standard valve was the spring retainer plug with the pinhole.

                  It was a close call with the plug screwed all the way in. The valve spring could have been a bit longer, but it did take out the play in the valve and seated it with a bit of pressure.

                  I get about 1 fps drop in MV for every 3 shots (with the 8.4 Exacts). 180 or 190 bar fill (don’t remember which) starts at 700 and runs straight down in a line. You can shoot once, blow off the next 98 pellets, then chrono the last, and plot a straight line for 100 shots. It’s that straight.

                  I think it took 130 shots to lose 100 fps.

                  twotalon

                • Wulfraed Says:

                  Found my print-out today…

                  Condor, so long barrel may contribute, .22 not .177, dial set at 8-0, Micrometer tank… (single shot samples, not averages)

                  Fastest: Beeman H&N Match 13.0gr at 727.4fps
                  Slowest: Eun Jin pointed 32.4gr at 511.0fps

                  H&N Barracuda Match 21.1gr broke 600fps (618.7).

                  So… I’d imagine a .177 could be reaching 700+fps with the Micrometer tank on a Talon/SS when dialed up.

                  The .22 Condor/Micrometer tank is roughly matching my .22 RWS Diana m54 (which seems to be a tad on the slow side, but usage may help the numbers) — of course the Condor favors the heavier pellets over the m54 light pellet (14.0gr RWS MK @ 810.8fps, [blink] I must have an error on my print-out; my single-shot samples show the H&N Barracuda Match recorded identical velocity on both rifles!)

        • Wulfraed Says:

          Not having the nerve to disassemble a new “toy” the only obvious thing I saw in comparison to the full power Condor tank was what looked like a short fat “roll pin” fit into the mouth at the air outlet port.

  • lloyd Says:

    BB,
    I was studying the pictures of the press and it looks like you could punch washers out of 1/8″ steel with it!
    Lloyd

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Lloyd,

      Just about!

      When I first saw this press at the 2009 SHOT Show they were demonstrating it by letting people full-length resize .30-06 cases. I was able to do it with one finger!

      Then Mac bought one and started telling me how great it was an I finally caved. My faithful RCBS Rockchucker never gets used anymore because of this one. I forgot to mention that the shellholders are automatic and you never have to buy another one. They come with the press and are adjustable from .25 ACP to .50-110. Once set up, they take no time to use. They slide around the base of the case as the case rises to meet the die, so you never have to slide a case into a dovetail.

      I love this press.

      B.B.

  • J-F Says:

    Dual power guns… Meh. I’d rather have two guns :-D
    I do sometimes use my HW45 on the lower settings and I asked my lovely assistant to listen carefully at different strategic places while I fired a few shots with different airguns to see what could be heard from where to not bother the people living next door to me and she told me it was louder on full power not a huge difference but still clearly perceptible and it’s also useful on days where my hands don’t feel like doing too much work. The HW 45 is still new to me and I have yet to receive my shoulder stock for it thanks to our lovely postal service strike turned lock-out but I have probably shot a 1/3 of my shots on low power.
    Now I’m thinking of buying the pneumatic one… Anyone interested in a kidney? I got more airguns to buy.

    J-F

  • Ton Says:

    BB
    I have a 32 S&W Mag revolver that I shoot 32 S&W Long from, ocassionally I shoot 32 ACP too. Do you know offhand which has the bigger diameter? I don’t have anything accurate enough to measure em.
    Thanks

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Ton,

      I looked in Barnes Cartridges of the World for the following. The .32 auto is supposed to have a bullet that mikes between .312″ and .314″, but which really mikes .308″. Barnes notes that the difference is important to handloaders.

      The other two cartridges use a bullet mikeing .315″, according to the Ammo Encyclopedia from Blue Book.

      That’s all fairly significant.

      B.B.

  • twotalon Says:

    Possibly useful information….

    97K problems…
    My 97 has always been noisy and rough, even though it shoots good. Still has some buzz after a Maccari kit (spring and guide). MV not too far out of line , but the spread is a bit loose. I knew the piston seal did not have a tight fit when I had it torn down. Was a bit edgy about it at the time. Just a bit too loose to suit me.

    Did a chrono on it yesterday with FTT (usual pellet) and Exact RS. There was only about a 30 fps increase when shooting the Exacts. Tried it with the R9 and got about 100 fps increase when switching to the lighter pellet. The pellets fit both rifles the same way.

    This looks like a way to verify that a seal is bad. It may not pan out like this with different rifles, but looks like it may in this case. New seals should get here today if FEDEX does not hand them off to the post office.

    twotalon

    • lloyd Says:

      TT,
      Definitely useful info. If the chrony readings don’t make sense, something is usually wrong. I always chuckle a little when people poo-poo the idea of getting a chrony, saying they don’t need it and would never use it. I think it’s a necessary diagnostic tool.
      The light pellet-heavy pellet comparison test sounds like a good idea.
      Thanks,
      Lloyd

      • twotalon Says:

        I am a bit confused about some things now.

        After doing some numbers swapping with chairgun, it looks like the R9 gets a lot hotter than it should when dropping the pellet weight. I just finished redoing the 97K and it is closer to what chairgun predicts when changing pellet weight.
        So we have a thing about power curves going on.

        Was surprised when working on the 97 that the old seal was fitting tight, when it used to fit loose when I did the spring and guide kit.
        It has a cold molasses fit. Smooth with a lot of resistance.
        New seals. Compression chamber and piston cleaned. Moly lubed. Same kind of cold molasses feel.
        MV went down a bit to just under 800 fps with FTT. Exact RS running a bit over 850. It’s burning moly too. Man that stuff stinks.

        Firing behavior is a little smoother. I also turned the spring around backwards. Not as much buzz, but there is still a little. I think the sluggish piston travel is hurting the power curve, but don’t know what to do about it.
        After quite a few shots the MV is trying to stabilize better.

        Maybe I need a different chamber lube for this thing. WH used some kind of clear thick grease. I used moly. Maybe should use silicone, but want some moly on the sides of the piston.

        twotalon

        • lloyd Says:

          TT,
          Chairgun assumes all pellet weights will produce the same FPE, but we know that PCPs almost always give more FPE with a heavier pellet. But you are talking springers.
          With springers, I think that most of them have a favorite pellet weight that produces max power and deviations from that weight either higher or lower usually result in less power. With the concerns about lube and cylinder/piston seal fit thrown into the mix I think it would be tough to predict how the velocity would end up.

          • twotalon Says:

            Later after I made the last comment, I soaked the chamber with chamber oil and worrked the cocking arm a bunch of times. The piston travel became less thick. Shot it a bunch of times and let it belch out a bunch of oil and moly. The chrono creeped up and started to stabilize at around 812-813 with unsorted FTT.
            I think moly may be the wrong thing in an HW. Makes the seal drag. Will keep adding chamber oil from time to time . Wonder how the stuff I use on my Talons would work (o-ring lube). It is some slippery stuff, but not made for metal to metal.

            twotalon

          • twotalon Says:

            This morning I shot some RS over the chrono. Had some smoke for a bit, then it cleared up. Velocity was not real smooth, even though pellets were weight sorted.

            Switched to CPL from a new box (unsorted) and had MV running low to mid 850s with a few dropping to high 840s and one as high as 861. Generally 853-855. Looking pretty consistent with unsorted. Fit is tight but easy enough to manage.

            Looks like it likes some weight, barrel friction, or both to to settle on the chrono.

            I also know this rifle does not like moly in the bore. It opens up groups. Repeated cleaning is necessary to keep it shooting good if it is still belching lube. Pulling dry patches through is all that is necessary.

            twotalon

            • Volvo Says:

              For what it is worth my HW 97K made in the 930 + fps range with CPL’s and 920′s with the JSB’s that it liked best. It was an older vintage with a JM kit and tune, hands down the most accurate long range springer I owned.

              • twotalon Says:

                I guess you got a faster one and I got a slower one.
                There also seem to be 2 different size compression tubes. May have something to do with it.
                Just looking to get it smoother and more consistent.

                twotalon

                • Volvo Says:

                  To be fair, it barely broke 800 fps with standard weight pellets before the tune but was just as consistent and accurate. It was part of a bad batch from the late 1990s. It did not have the smaller old compression tube that you mention, those first models were strictly 12 ft lb rifles and I think only the HW77 had them if I recall correctly.
                  From what I have read and my experience when all is well with a tuned 97, 920 -940 fps is the norm.

  • Victor Says:

    B.B.,
    I have a, sort of, off the wall question. Can you name some quality springers requiring the least amount of effort to cock? On occasion, I take family and friends out shooting, so I provide a gun for everyone. Thus far we haven’t had any children, but I was wondering what guns might be the absolute easiest to cock. I’m not interested in BB guns. I’m more interested in something that a child over, say 9 years old, or a small women can cock for hours. If a few come to mind, I wouldn’t mind a short list.
    Thanks,
    Victor

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Victor,

      The Hammerli 490, IZH 60 and 61, Bronco. Of these, the Bronco has the best trigger and is the most accurate.

      Some of the youth rifles like the Gamo Lady Recon are also good.

      B.B.

      • Slinging Lead Says:

        BB

        No matter how hard I try, I just can’t picture you firing a Lady Recon. I hope the range was deserted that day. ;-)

    • Chuck Says:

      Victor,
      I have a Gamo Recon. I don’t mention it much because the Bronco is more accurate so the Recon sits and languishes in the closet until the grand kids visit. However, it is a fun shooter with 1/2″ and frequently less sized groups and easy for a youth to cock and light to hold. It’s cheaper than the Bronco but if you’re going to get more than one youth shooter for your stable I wouldn’t buy two. I’d get one of each.

      Because the Recon is so light your smaller shooters will enjoy it very much. I’d shy away from the IZH-61 for only one reason and that is the propensity for dry-fire in the hands of youngsters or casual shooters.

    • J-F Says:

      Victor,
      If you have the ability to open it up and smooth it out, for younger shooter I’d go with the IZH-60 and being a single shot there’s less chance of dry fire.
      It’s adjustable length of pull is a really nice option but for older persons the Bronco is nicer and easier to shoot accuratly.
      I can’t talk about the other models as I have no experience with them.

      You said no BB gun but would the Daisy 499 be a good option, it is after all the most accurate BB gun in the world.

      J-F

    • Victor Says:

      B.B., Chuck, J-F,

      Thanks for the input. As I’ve mentioned, I like to take friends and family out to the desert to shoot. I found an excellent place just 20 minutes from home that is fairly isolated, not visible from any roads (have to take a fairly rough dirt road to get there), and has a mountain in the back-drop. There’s absolutely no traffic in the area, by any means, so it’s about as safe a place as I can imagine.

      I set up various types of targets at different distances.
      1. At distances between 10 and 20 yards, we setup shotgun shells on branches of desert bushes. We end up with what we call “Christmas trees”. (Apparently some people shoot shotguns there, but we’ve never actually seen anyone do it. Fortunately for us, they leave their spent shells.)
      2. I fill juice containers with water, and put white duct tape targets on each side. These get placed at between 15 and 35 yards.
      3. I make target holders that I place at 25 yards, and at 50 yards. At 25 yards, the holders have 4 8.5″x11″ targets. The top 2 targets have 5 large bulls each, and the bottom 2 targets have 10 small bulls each. These are the same targets that I personally practice with at 50 yards at the range.
      The 50 yard target holder is a large metal frame that allows me to place large zombie posters, and the same targets that I have at 25 yards (obviously for the more advanced shooter). This frame also allows me to hang water bottles off the size of the frame at 4 places. In addition to this, I have an extended holder, hanging from the top, that allows me to place a flat piece of wood that serves as yet another target. I cover this piece of wood with white duct tape, making the holes easily visible with a scope.
      4. I also setup a target at a 100 yards. Usually a frying pan hanging by thin bungee cords off a tripod.

      GOTTA LOVE THEM ZOMBIES!
      Behind the hands, brain area, eyes, chest, mouth, and upper stomach area, I duct tape ketchup and Taco Bell packets. I do these nice and tight. These zombie targets are then taped in front of stiff poster board material. We found that while the first shot hitting the condiment packet backed zombie does splatter a bit, it’s the subsequent shots that cause the holes to REALLY explode, leaving a flowered tear, and lots of BLEEDING.

      Victor

      • Victor Says:

        Oh, one last thing. I also put metal spinners at 25 yards.

        • J-F Says:

          Wow do you mind taking me along? We’re pretty far from the few empty cans I used as a kid…
          I also love the idea of condiments. I’ll give it a try, I kept the boards from the realtor when I bought the house for an occasion like this exactly.

          J-F

          • Victor Says:

            J-F,
            Just let me know when you’re in southern NV (near Las Vegas). The place I go to is right off Las Vegas Blvd, going south. Just remember, it’s VERY hot now. Our temperature has been dancing around 110 F. I’m a true desert rat, so the heat doesn’t bother me as much as most.

            Back when I competed in the US Internationals in Black Rock Canyon, outside of Phoenix, temperatures were often around 115 F, and sometimes around 118 F! We wore lots of clothes, including sweatshirts and leather jackets. As it turns out, we were probably more comfortable than those just wearing a T-shirt and shorts, because our body temperature was regulated by our own perspiration. I also wear a bandanna inside my hat/cap, that hangs out, covering my neck and side of my face. You don’t want direct sunlight hitting you, so more clothes is better.

            Victor

      • Chuck Says:

        Wow! Now that sounds like fun. I like that idea of the condiments packs. Oooo! Red blood, yellow blood, white blood, even green blood would be available.

  • Larry Harris Says:

    I really like when you cross between air guns and firearms. Few writers do this as well as you and most not at all.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Larry,

      Thanks for your comment about that. Some readers absolutely do not like it when I mention firearms, so I try to do it as infrequently as possible, but there are sometimes such great parallels that I can’t avoid it. The closeness of performance between black powder arms and pneumatics is a good example.

      B.B.

  • Eliminator Says:

    Do not forget the Theoben Dual Magnum. This is a gun of real dual-power!

  • wprejs Says:

    Yup, So I decided that Im going to get a predom lucznik , since I’m polish and well its a nice looking gun.

  • Chuck Says:

    wprejs,
    OK,OK here’s the link: http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2007/05/predom-target-pistol-by-lucznik.html

    Sorry about that. I just got too eager.

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