.22-caliber Browning Gold air rifle: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


Browning’s Gold breakbarrel is a beautiful new spring-piston rifle.

Well, Mac has returned home and left me to finish this report on the Browning Gold breakbarrel by myself. Some wonderful things have happened and I’m going to write another part to this story tomorrow, only I will not link it to this report, because it applies to general airgunning.

What’s happened has come about in many parts. First, we had a comment on Facebook where I was asked if I really meant to include firearms in my comments on the Artillery Hold video. I definitely did, because target shooters use essentially the same hold when they shoot from a bench, if they want to get the best groups. They call it “follow-through” and I call it the artillery hold, and when we use it we are doing many things at the same time. Well, today’s report brought that out as few past reports have, because the Browning Gold is very sensitive to hold.

But I was also reading the Harvey Donaldson book (Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson) at this time and even he mentions the same thing. If you want accuracy from the bench you must hold your rifle as loosely as possible, even if it’s a .30-06! The object is to let the firearm or airgun move in the way that it wants to, so that when the bullet or pellet exits the muzzle, it (the muzzle) is always in the same place.

So today I’m going to tell you what I did to re-test the Browning Gold, but tomorrow I’m going to expand the subject to encompass all spring-piston airguns. Let’s now turn our attention to today’s subject.

Revisiting the Browning Gold
I said at the end of Part 3 that I felt the Browning Gold needed to be given another chance to excel, and that I would do certain things to ensure that every possible thing was done to help it shoot. First, I would clean the bore with JB-Non-Embedding-Bore-Cleaning-Compound. This I did by running a brass brush loaded with JB bore paste through the bore 20 times in each direction. This rifle’s bore provided the most resistance to this procedure that I have ever experienced. Usually the brush becomes much easier to push after 10-14 strokes have gone through, but although it did get a little easier, there was still great resistance on the last stroke.

Following the cleaning, all residue was removed from the bore and clean patches were run through until they came out clean.

The second thing I did was check the stock screws and of course they were all loose. So I tightened them and checked them during shooting after each five shots. The triggerguard screw did loosen several times again, but the screws in the forearm remained tight for the remainder of the shooting.

I checked all the scope mount screws and they were tight. Now the rifle was ready for the re-test.

H&N Baracuda Match pellets were the best
Another trick I used was to begin with a known good pellet. because Mac had tested several pellets in Part 3 and found the H&N Baracuda Match pellets to be the best, I didn’t waste any time with other pellets. This would also “condition” the bore, for those who say that is an important step to achieving accuracy.

What Mac found was that by holding the rifle on the flat of his open palm placed under the rear of the cocking slot gave the best accuracy, so that was how I began the test. And the first group I got was remarkably similar to the best groups Mac got when he shot the rifle. So I was not able to make any improvement, but I also didn’t do any worse. After I explain how the rest of the test went I will tell you about the special holding technique I mentioned last time. And, no surprise, my technique is identical to the one used by all the benchrest champions back in the 19th and 20th centuries! In other words, nothing has changed.

Back to the test. At this point I was back to the baseline Mac established and wanting to see if I could push the limits forward (achieve better accuracy). I never did, but oh, boy, did I prove a couple things that you will find interesting.

Was it scope shift?
Even shoot a gun and get two groups from the same scope setting? I did with this rifle. And the scope is not to blame, because it was still performing as it should — a fact I proved AFTER shooting the double groups.

What caused my double groups, and probably also causes the ones that you shoot with your rifles, wasn’t a scope shift but a subtle change in the hold. That’s all it took to land the pellets in a tight group an inch away. Most of the time these groups were separated laterally, but once they were vertical, and I will tell you how that happened in a moment.

Ten pellets went into these two groups. They look like the scope shifted during shooting, but all that changed was how the rifle was held.

A group of ten landed in two distinctly separate locations. This is not “scope shift.” It’s the result of a very hold-sensitive rifle being held two different ways, with each hold being repeated very carefully. If the two different holds were not repeated carefully these pellets would be al over the place!

Moving your hand as little as one-quarter-inch or changing the way the rifle balances on your hand is all it takes to shoot a split group like the one above. Fortunately there is a way to cancel any effects.

The “secret” hold
Okay, now let’s hear from Harvey Donaldson, the man who invented the .219 Donaldson Wasp, and who, at 85 years of age, could still put five bullets into a group that measured three-tenths of an inch at 100 yards. Here, in February, 1972, Donaldson is writing to Dave Wolfe, the former editor of Handloader magazine.

I find that a lot of shooters put more pressure on the stock than is necessary. When you can shoot with no pressure you sure have it made. Of course your sandbags will have to be right and one has more trouble with a rifle that has a lot of recoil.

That, my friends, is the artillery hold explained in different terms, except that Donaldson is shooting directly off the bags, and not off his hand. But the essence of the artillery hold is explained in that paragraph.

He gets away with resting directly on sandbags because of the velocity of the centerfire rifles he is shooting. Almost everything he shot went over 3,000 f.p.s., so the bullet was out the muzzle before the barrel started to move. With a spring-piston gun that cannot happen, because the pellet doesn’t start moving until the piston has almost come to a complete stop. The gun has already started moving before the pellet begins its trip down the bore, which is why we airgunners have to take extra pains to allow the gun to follow its own recoil path every time.

How to apply the secret hold
Here is how you apply the secret hold to a sensitive spring gun. After you have the crosshairs on target, close your eyes and relax. Then open your eyes and see where the crosshairs are. If you are right-handed, the chances are they will have moved to the right and up. The opposite for lefties — left and up.

When you see this, adjust your hold until the gun no longer moves when you relax. At that point the gun will shoot the best it is capable of from a rest.

After you practice this for a few hundred times you won’t have to close your eyes anymore. You will be able to relax and just watch the crosshairs move, if they’re going to. They almost always do move, so I go with the times when they move the least of all, remaining inside the bullseye but perhaps moving up just a bit.

What I’ve just described is the true artillery hold, and it’s something more than that. It’s really something called follow-through, in which the shooter is so relaxed that he remains on target for some time after the shot is fired. How many times have you caught yourself popping up like a gopher immediately after taking a shot? You know you aren’t going to hit anything if you do that, yet it’s a bad habit we all have to unlearn. If you think it is difficult for an airgunner, try sitting there and taking it on the chin when you get slugged by a .30-06! Even my gentle .38-55 is still a big old cow about recoil. It will figuratively jam you into a fence and step on your feet and you have to just grin and bear it if you want all the bullets to go to the same place.

Back to the Gold test
I shot and shot, trying different holds and once even resting the rifle directly on the bag. that was the only time I got a vertical shot displacement.

It was very easy to put two or three pellets into the same hole, bit try as I did, I found it impossible to get all ten in the same place. In the end my best group looked a lot like the one Mac shot in Part 3.


By applying the best dead-calm hold, I managed to shoot this group of ten H&N Baracud Match pellets.

The results
Here is what I think this means. Some airguns are not meant to be shot from a bench. The Browning Gold might be one of them. It’s a rifle that needs to be held, just like several other powerful breakbarrel springers I could name. So while it may never turn in a screaming-good group on paper, hunters will find that it delivers on game. That is my impression of this airgun.

Tomorrow I’m going to address how to tell whether an airgun is a shooter before you try it. It’s risky, I know, and I’ll admit that I have made a few huge mistakes over the years, but more often than not I can now tell when a gun will be difficult or easy to shoot accurately.

81 Responses to “.22-caliber Browning Gold air rifle: Part 4”

  • JTinAL Says:

    BB. I still have trouble understanding (and applying)
    how the artillery hold translates to standing offhand shooting
    while hunting.
    It seems that trying to get your forward hand in just the right
    place on the forearm every time,and holding the rifle loosely to
    your shoulder but not so loose that it can slip,and keeping your
    trigger hand from twisting the rifle (cant) while squeezing the
    trigger as straight rearward as possible,all at different angles
    because of terrain and game position,would require too much
    time(good shots at game usually not lasting long ) and loss of
    concentration on the target.
    What am I missing here other than the obvious (practice practice
    and more practice)? Or am I destined to avoid springers for anything
    other than casual plinking?
    That’s what I’ve done so far because I just can’t put it all together
    well enough to be comfortable shooting at live targets.
    Thanks BB
    And keep ‘em comin :)

    JTinAL

    • flobert Says:

      You need to shoot more. More accuracy = less suffering for varmints you have to “turn off”.

    • Robert from Arcade Says:

      You have to hold the gun loose. What I mean by this is hard to explain, but it is like pounding finish nails with a hammer and not dinging the surface. I’m a professional trim carpenter by trade. If you were to grab my hammer out of my hand ,you would find that I’m not gripping it in death grip. Yet I can drive a finish nail in almost flush with the surface without touching the material, just the nail. It comes with practice and not fighting the piece. Just don’t think it over to much and diddle around to much when shooting at game. Also take advantage of rests in the field and your knees, and there the artillery hold works the same. Airgun hunting is like traditional archery in that the game has to be close , you have to be quiet,and the game un-aware of you. Many folks are poor game shots because they have mediocre hunting skills.

      • Lloyd Says:

        Robert,
        Off the wall here, but do you think air nailers have made the art of nailing a thing of the past? The ability to put a little push on the hammer to keep a nail going in straight when it hits some wild grain and wants to bend? Blunting the point avoid splits and knowing just where to start the nail to pull everything up evenly. Or pulling the casing around so the door stays neutral on the hinge when the framing carpenter left everything out of plumb. I know exactly what you are talking about with the finishing nails. I wonder if the artillery hold is the same where some folks might never really get it?
        Lloyd

        • Robert from Arcade Says:

          Lloyd: To a degree, I have a full compliment of nail guns and staplers and a couple potable compressors to run them. Have used the Paslode guns also. Some of the younger guys often don’t know how to toe nail studs or use traditional trim methods like coping baseboard or crown moulding corner joints instead of mitering them. They think that square ,perfectly plumb corners actually exist! I think that because I learned to use the old ways I can appreciate the new stuff more. I know I do a better job quicker because of it. Getting back to the air guns .I think that is why springers ,especially powerful ones, are abandoned by most newer airgunners for easier to shoot PCP’s. They want the results , and the power , but are to impatient to learn the skills. You can really blame them.

          • Wulfraed Says:

            I have a full compliment of nail guns and staplers and a couple potable compressors to run them.

            Non sequitur; (emphasis mine)

            How do they taste?

            • Robert from Arcade Says:

              OK, how about “arsenal” of air nailers, there’s no edit feature here and it’s been a long day.

              • Wulfraed Says:

                I’d missed that one… it was the “potable” which triggered the taste comment.

                • Robert from Arcade Says:

                  So I don’t get a gold star for spelling, you seem to derive pleasure in pointing them out. I’m happy that I made a modicum of difference in your day.I think Lloyd knows what I said.

                  • Wulfraed Says:

                    Apologies if I offended… It’s just that the typo still resulted in a valid sentence with the non-nonsensical imagery.

              • Lloyd Says:

                Robert,
                I have to admit that it would be tough to live without the power and battery operated tools these days. I like working by myself and the air tools make that more possible. And in many instances, the modern air tools do a much better job.
                Lloyd

    • JTinAL,

      What Robert said.

      And, yes, practice.

      B.B.

    • Matt61 Says:

      JTinAL, try less not more. Just rest your rifle on your offhand without gripping. With your other hand, just hold the rifle in position with no pressure. Keep eyes on target through the shot. That’s it.

      Matt61

      • Anonymous Says:

        Automatically calling someones hunting skills and morals into question
        seems more like what you would find on those other forums.
        The subject here was only about “springers and how to be repeatably
        accurate with one”

        flobert:The issue here isn’t wounded game,because as I said
        I won’t hunt with a springer until I trust that I can hit where
        I want with one!

        Robert From Arcade:I understand about holding the gun loose but
        I’m talking about the repeatability of holding the gun the same way
        every time that BB and others preach so much,that’s what causes me
        to overthink it lol.I have no problems taking game with other types
        of AG’s at (my personal) max distances of ~30 yds.

        Matt61:Thank you this is the type of advice I expected from folks here!
        Guess I’ll just have to keep experimenting :)

        • JTinAL Says:

          OOPS forgot to sign in on the above pooost

        • Victor Says:

          JTinAL,

          I see the point you’re trying to get at here, regarding how do you achieve consistency.
          I actually place mental markers on the specific gun that I’m shooting. Tape is probably a better approach. Each rifle is a little different with regards to stock, grip, length of pull, trigger travel, trigger weight, etc. For absolutely consistency, you want to find the exact hand and trigger placement, along with the overall feel of the gun. For instance, when shooting my Gamo Hunter Extreme, there’s a small, what I call “shelf”, where I can place my thumb. Know that placing my thumb on that shelf helps me find the same hold each time. Putting a small piece of tape at key places to mark how your hand should hold the rifle might help you find consistency. Just a thought.

          Here’s a little detail that helps me with my trigger squeeze. At the start shot execution, make sure that my trigger finger is placing a solid, detectable, amount of pressure, short of actual execution. I can’t say what might work for others, but having this clear feel of the trigger helps me finish the shot without jerking.

          Victor

        • flobert Says:

          I’d try going to the range, and put the target at 100 yards or whatever distance you do your hunting sight-in at, and try shooting some groups using the “light” hold and see how you do.

          This “artillery hold” is hard for me to really wrap my head around too.

          I really want a good hunting-power nitro piston gun right now (since my primer powered pellets idea proved to be so idiotic) or a Crosman 2300 Silhouette, but I’m in a financial hard vacuum right now so I think I’ll mess with my faithful Gamo Delta. I think it needs:

          A camo paint job.
          A hood over the front sight
          A trigger job
          And some kind of peep sight.
          More practice on my part working on my grouping with the “artillery hold”.

          • /Dave Says:

            flobert,

            You could do worse than the “used” Weihrauch HW90 that I see is still on PA’s site. I’m kind of surprised no one has snagged it yet. I have one that I like so much, I bought a .22 barrel for it! It’s a smooth shooting, accurate, hard hitting gas spring gun that is worth every penny I paid! (no, I don’t work for either Weihrauch or PA….)

            /Dave

            • flobert Says:

              OK I can send you my address, buy it and send it on over, and I’ll say Thank You.

              I have no money to spend on guns or much of anything right now.

              Damn, hard to feel like doing much of anything right now, it’s 8 at night and it’s 90 degrees here, at least I have an electric fan.

        • Alan in MI Says:

          JTinAL,

          Building on something Victor said, one of the best things that I did that helped me get reasonably consistent with my Quest 800 was the addition of two pieces of cloth “hockey tape” that I stuck on the stock. Once I figured out the right hold for the gun (with MUCH trial and error and lots of notes), I put one piece of tape under the the stock at the rear of where I want the palm of my offhand to be placed, and the other on the cheeckpiece for my face. I simply slide my offhand (palm open) rearward until I feel the edge of the tape, and place my cheek on the stock feeling the roughness of the tape on my cheek (no beard) with consistent placement and pressure – and this helps not only with consistency of hold, but also cheekweld. I used the cloth hockey tape as it has the best tactile feel for this. It really helped me get to the point where I felt I was shooting it as good as the gun could shoot (which sadly was never that great). I now use a Marauder for all pest shooting since I know exactly where those pellets will hit, and just pl ink with the Quest.

          Alan in MI

    • Victor Says:

      JTinAL,

      If you watch 10 meter air-rifle competitions, you’ll see that the rifles are merely supported, and NOT held by the offhand (left-hand, if you’re shooting right-handed). 10 meter competitors either make a fist, and rest the rifle on the flat of the fist, or they rest the rifle on their palm, or they’ll support the rifle on the finger tips of an open hand. In any case, they NEVER actually “hold” the rifle, just support it, while resting their elbow on their hip.

      The same goes for small-bore rifle shooters, except that some use a “palm-rest”. But even then, you don’t actually grab the palm-rest. The palm-rest simply provides a mechanism for holding the rifle up, bringing the sights up to eye-level. I think that more shooters today use a block instead of the classic palm-rest.

      Of course, this gets into a whole other discussion of how one could, or should hold a rifle in the offhand position. The vast majority of people are taught to hold the rifle by extending their non-dominant hand out, and using muscle to hold the rifle up. Target shooters don’t do that. Instead, they rest their elbow on their hip area so that they use little or no muscle at all. For action shooting, like shotgun, you need to do the former, but for absolute steady, accurate shooting, you want to do what target shooters do. I’m sure that B.B. and others can better qualify what you should do, and when.

      Victor

      • JTinAL Says:

        Victor:YES! Holding a rifle this way is what I mean but in the
        field with up or down angles it just doesn’t feel natural lol.
        And putting elbow to hip,well,lets just say I’m challenged at that lol.
        But yes I understand what you mean about using support instead of
        muscle,thank you.

        • Robert from Arcade Says:

          JT: I wasn’t saying you had no hunting skills, as I do not know you personally . I’m sorry you took it personally. That was not my intention. In a nut shell, here is what I think about the springer air rifles that I hunt with. The air rifle I use most for hunting is a Diana 48 in .22 cal ,with a 4X AO scope, in a one piece RWS mount. For me, the hunt sets up the shot the shooting ends the hunt,hopefully. The other comments I see here today show that the target shooters on here are maybe over thinking this . Good shots are not necessarily good hunters, and so so target shooters are sometimes deadly hunters. The shooting part when applied to hunting scenarios, is not about making a good group or completely mastering the off-hand position. The shooting part should kill the game cleanly so it can be retrieved, which is why we hunt. When shooting at game you should always use a supported position ( this applies to air rifles, shotgun shooting is a whole different ball game) if at all possible, and if you have doubts about a clean shot you shouldn’t shoot. Good practice for off hand field rest supported shooting for hunting is all about the ONE shot group. That is, the first shot that you fire from a cold gun ,no matter the type, should hit the target. The target should be the same size as the vital zone on the game you wish to take. A gun that you use for hunting that cannot place it’s first shot on the target will not work well for you in that application. Practice on targets like paint balls that would imitate the vital spot on a squirrel for instance, and make a mental note on how far you are able to reliably hit one. Another words practice a lot, and do some old fashion woods walking, shooting at inanimate targets of opportunity. If you are taking game out to the 30 yard distance on a regular basis with your air gun, I think you are doing very well at both hunting and shooting.

        • Victor Says:

          JTinAL,

          Shooting fundamentals are exactly the same, whether you’re a competitive marksman, or a hunter. If I were a hunter, I’d want to know that my scope was sighted in perfectly. That requires at least 10 shots, in my case. I also want to know the capabilities of my gun are, and shooting for groups is the only way that I know of for determining this. But again, the fundamentals are the same. So no matter what I’m shooting at, I still start of by finding my “natural point of aim, making sure that my sights are aligned, and not focusing on the target, squeezing the trigger, and following through.

          One last detail regarding shooting well. Pay attention to your entire body. Try to determine which parts might be flinching as you commit to a shot. This can be very subtle. This is the essence of the artillery hold. You must not allow your non-dominant hand (or entire arm) contribute in any way, other than to provide a stable platform.

          I’m right handed, and shoot that way. If I’m shooting from a table, I’m careful NOT to allow my right forearm touch the table, because just the act of squeezing the trigger puts muscles in motion that will contribute to error. If I’m using a rest, and cross my left arm anywhere near the rifle, then I have to pay close attention to muscle contractions that can also lead to errors. You’re whole body is suspect, including parts most would not consider. It’s all about being relaxed, whether shooting targets, or shooting at golf balls. By the way, golf balls make excellent targets for learning how your gun shoots at different distances.

          Victor

      • J-F Says:

        In the last summer olympics I tortured my wife by making her watch some 10M with me, I couldn’t tell when they fired, they would pick the rifle from a side rest, aim……….. Then put the rifle back on the rest, sometimes the camera was zooming on the face of the shooter, still couldn’t tell.
        I stoped the torture and switched channels after about 8 or 10 shots. What they can do is amasing but we’re only seeing someone standing PERFECTLY still, when they showed a wider frame of say 4 shooters I couldn’t tell who was shooting, they didn’t show the trigger finger or the target.
        Maybe they could use tracer rounds ;-) ?

        J-F

        • cowboystar dad Says:

          Okay J-F, now you’ve got me thinking.
          Steel Storm on full auto.
          Every 4th b.b. a ‘tracer round’.
          What a blast that would be ;-)

          • J-F Says:

            Some people do it on airsoft guns using a fake silencer, it’s quite something to see, have a look at it : http://youtu.be/htrlNT9hLqE
            looks like a lot of fun.
            Speaking of fun, I did the full auto mod on my GSG 92 last week-end, hey this is FUN :D the cool thing is it’s a selector, you have the full auto, but you keep the semi-auto feature!

            J-F

        • Lloyd Says:

          JF,
          When I was reading Victor’s description of 10 meter shooters, I was also thinking of watching the Olympics and trying to watch the competitors for any sign that they had fired a shot. Then I read your comment ….wooooooo…ooooo… strange. My wife and I have those weird “same thought at the same time” moments occasionally. But yes, no detectible movement or change of facial expression or anything to give away the fact that they had fired a shot.

          Victor, so could one of those personality test questions for target competitors be, “If you were concentrating deeply on a precise task and the gas stove blew up in the kitchen, how soon would you know it?” I can think of several multiple choice answers. I never have been able to shut out those external distractions, or more likely, never really worked at it.
          Lloyd

          • Victor Says:

            Lloyd,

            You’re close, I think. A competitive marksman should be able to drown out background noise, except for the most extreme cases. It’s a simple matter of being able to develop exceptional focus. As I mentioned to Matt a couple days ago, when a really good competitor drops a point, it’s usually because of mental distractions, which can only happen if you lose focus. I for one can focus intensely on whatever it is that I’m doing to the point of others trying to break my concentration. In any case, this is why so many competitive marksmen wear BLINDERS!

            Victor

            • Victor Says:

              … to the point of ANNOYING others trying to break my concentration.

            • Lloyd Says:

              Victor, yes, that innate ability to focus and make outside distractions disappear. I remember in my college years when transcendental meditation was popular. A very, very few of my friends did embrace the practice to a level that I observed as being able to block out the outside world. Do ALL top level competitors have that natural ability, and I do really mean, natural, not learned. Why should target competition be any different than any other type of competition or skill, physical or mental, that requires competition at the highest level. Am I saying that most people don’t have a chance to make it to the highest level no matter how hard they work… I don’t know…. but many things in life are like that. Sorry, a bit rhetorical, I guess.
              Lloyd

              • Victor Says:

                Lloyd,

                That some have a truly natural ability to focus, and others do not, is a really good question! We had a member of our club who could break the record in rapid fire pistol any day of the week, EXCEPT for competition. I went to a couple US International tryouts with him, and even the day before competition, he’d break out into a sweat, and display stress like I had never seen before. He had all the talent that God could possibly bestow upon any man, but when forced to the firing line during competition, it’s as if he became a puzzle that had been take apart to the last piece. He became Mr. Anxiety, with absolutely no focus. I believe that he was the absolute best rapid fire pistol shooter in the world, just not where some might say it really matters.

                But, obviously, focus is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to be a champion.

                Victor

        • Victor Says:

          There’s real technical beauty in not being able to tell whether or not a shot has been fired by a competitive marksman, namely, it shows that the shooter is following through, as they should. If you want to be an excellent shot, then you MUST follow though!
          Victor

          • J-F Says:

            Real beauty but a bit hmmm… how to say… boring to watch on TV.

            J-F

            • Victor Says:

              J-F,

              Absolutely NOT, if you’re a competitive marksman, or possibly really good at some other sport that requires a super high degree of mental abilities. I’ve watched some of the all-time best shoot, and I found it to be riveting! But I understand. Many will describe sports like golf as being as exciting as watching grass grow. I know people will say the same about baseball. As one friend put it, “Baseball is a sport where they manage to cram 5 minutes of action into two and a half hours.”. As a former high school pitcher, I couldn’t disagree with him more. To each his own, I guess.

              Victor

  • flobert Says:

    Ahh, natural point of aim.

    My last shot fired in serious competition was a 10 due to this. It’s a long story but I’d had to “break” my shooting position and used the natural point of aim technique to “recover”, it actually didn’t matter that much but I think it’s kinda cool that I got a good 10.

  • Stiever Says:

    BB; Thanks. You mentioned that sliding breech guns can be more accurate than brake-barrels and I agree. Is it because sliding-breech guns are more muzzle-heavy do you suppose?

  • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

    From B.B.: “If you think it is difficult for an airgunner, try sitting there and taking it on the chin when you get slugged by a .30-06! Even my gentle .38-55 is still a big old cow about recoil. It will figuratively jam you into a fence and step on your feet and you have to just grin and bear it if you want all the bullets to go to the same place.”

    Reminds me of a time I was helping a good friend prepare for a safari to Zimbabwe. We were shooting his .338 Win. Mag. of a bench. Now, this cartridge gets your attention. I was managing to shoot some fairly tight groups, hovering around 1 MOA. He was not, and he is a good shot. Finally, he said, “What is the deal today? You are shooting way better groups!” Well, says I, “I’m just hanging in there and taking the punch. I figure I’m going to get the s_ _ _ kicked out of me no matter what. If I pull the shot, I’m going to have to call it, and then get the s_ _ _ kicked out me again.” Easy to say, hard to do.

    Gun Doc

    • Gun Doc,

      The older I get the less I enjoy recoil. I used to think a .270 Weatherby magnum was a pussycat. Now I think a .30-30 kicks like a mule. I’m into .22 Hornets, these days.

      B.B.

      • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

        B.B.

        .30-30s kick because all us Texas kids of that generation grew up shooting light ’94 Winchesters with steel butt plates and stocks with lots of drop. If it had the ubiquitous Weaver K4 on a Weaver side mount, you had to hold you head up off the stock to see through the scope. That gave the gun a dadgum running start to slap you with, which of course was even worse!

        Somewhere there is (or was) video of me shooting a .375 H&H off the hood of a Jeep. The reload was a dud. At the trigger break, other than my finger, I didn’t move at all. The guy behind the camera didn’t believe me about the dud until I waited a minute or two (now THAT was interesting!) then ejected the still intact cartridge with a big ol’ dent in the primer. I wish I had a copy of that video, because I must admit I’m pretty proud of it.

        But, I don’t enjoy recoil. The hardest kicker I own is likely a 12 ga., but among the rifles it is a .300 Win. Mag. And it is not heavy, though not terribly light either, but it is well stocked, so it is not too bad.

        Gun Doc

        • Gun Doc,

          This comment was caught by the spam filter. I have no idea why since it contains no outside links and uses the same IP address as all your other comments. I’ve now whitelisted you, but that’s not foolproof. Other whitelisted regulars occasionally get caught in the spam filter for unknown reasons.

          Edith

  • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

    Now, here is some interesting physics. A gun is a closed system until the projectile leaves the muzzle. This means that in the absence of external forces the center of gravity of the system does not move. Let us look at a .30-06 in free recoil. Say a 10 lb. rifle, 150 grain bullet (0.0214 lb.), 50 grains of powder (0.0071 lb.) Lets say the bullet moves 24 inches to get to the muzzle. Assume at that time that the powder is converted to gas and is evenly distributed so that it has moved 12 inches. When the bullet is at the muzzle, how far has the rifle moved in free recoil?

    X = ((0.0214 x 24) + (0.0071 x 12))/10 = 0.06 inches.

    Now, everything is moving, the bullet and powder forward, the rifle backward. But the point is most of kick of recoil is after the bullet is clear of the rifle.

    I bet if you consider the relatively heavy piston and spring of a spring gun, you get a much larger answer for how far the gun has moved backwards before the pellet has moved very far down the barrel. The piston then lands and drives the gun back in the forward direction. Most of this probably occurs while the pellet is still in bore. Now you see why hold and follow through are so vital to accurate shooting with a spring gun.

    Gun Doc

    • Don,

      This will be in tomorrow’s blog.

      B.B.

      • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

        B.B.,

        That will be an interesting blog. Please note I am not implying you need a firm hold on a spring gun, but a consistent one, which I believe is what you are trying to achieve with the Artillery Hold.

        It makes me wonder if the Artillery Hold has to do with barrel vibrations, or more about gross gun movement. Clearly the two are connected, but I think of barrel vibrations as fine movement of the barrel relative to the gun as opposed to relatively larger movement of the entire gun. Barrel vibration can be important, as shown by the success of the Browning BOSS system, but barrel vibration may be overshadowed by gun movement with spring guns.

        Gun Doc

    • Matt61 Says:

      This looks right the way it’s set up, but that number for recoil movement seems awfully small. There is a YouTube video of a guy holding a rifle with arms extended, like the Isosceles Triangle shooting position for pistols. He looks a little drunk from the way he is weaving around. Anyway, he releases the trigger and sure enough the stock springs back and clips him right in the jaw. It traveled a lot more than .06 inches.

      Actually, I’m not sure how one would define the “kick” of the recoil in terms of distance or time since once the buttstock is accelerated moving backward, inertia will keep it moving until it is arrested by the shoulder. If this whole thing is interpreted as the kick then there is a lot of video evidence that the recoil distance is quite a bit more than .06 inches and that it definitely persists after the projectile has left the barrel.

      Matt61

      • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

        Matt61,

        My calculations are correct. You misunderstand. I said how far has the rifle moved by the time the bullet is at the muzzle. It was meant to show how little recoil affects accuracy for a firearm compared to a spring gun.

        Now, at the instant the bullet is at the muzzle the rifle is moving backwards and will continue so until something, presumably your shoulder, stops it. How fast it is moving backwards at that instant is not hard to calculate though you do have to make some assumptions about the velocity of the propellant gas in the barrel behind the bullet. Even after the bullet exits, the recoil impulse continues as the propellant gas exits the barrel. For the total recoil impulse you have to make some assumptions (or detailed calculations) about the velocity of the propellant gas as it expands out of the barrel.

        Again, my intent was to show how little the gun has moved in free recoil by the time the bullet exits. I was not saying that was the total movement in recoil. In fact, in the absence of anything to stop it, the total movement of a gun in free recoil is infinite. The total movement depends on your shoulder (or some dummy’s jaw!) stopping the gun.

        Gun Doc

        • Matt61 Says:

          Oh, I see. Yes in the time for the bullet to exit the muzzle that number makes sense. Now as to why that number is important, I guess the implication is that once the bullet exits the muzzle, nothing you do matters. Physically that is true, but that does bear on the whole issue of follow-through. It does seem counterintuitive to me that what you could do after the shot can still affect it. Victor and I have discussed this somewhat although I don’t know if there is a definitive answer. But there is no denying the importance of follow-through.

          Matt61

    • Bobby Nations Says:

      Don,

      The center of gravity can change in a closed system regardless of whether any outside forces act upon it not.

      Take a contrived example of a gas can partitioned down it’s middle by some form of vertical divider. Fill one of the partitions only, and you will have a can whose COG will be offset from the vertical center-line of the whole can. Now, if the divider springs a leak for whatever reason, the gas will equalize across the two chambers resulting in a COG on the vertical center-line.

      I don’t think that this affects your other calculations much if at all, though. :-)

      • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

        Bobby Nations,

        Sorry, but Newton had it right. In the absence of external forces the CG of a closed system remains at the same point. In your contrived example the gas “leaking” to the “empty” side will cause the vessel itself to shift in the other direction to maintain the location of the CG of the system. You must imagine vessel resting on a frictionless surface such as an air table. If the vessel is sitting on the ground the friction reaction force that you think of as keeping the vessel in place constitutes an external force (a no-no in the original premise.) Another example is dry ice phase changing from solid to gas inside a closed vessel. Even if you place the dry ice off center, there will be a slight pressure differential as the ice “evaporates” that favors the closer side. This will cause the vessel itself to move enough to keep the CG at the same place. Again, the vessel must rest on a frictionless surface.

        If you placed a cocked, unloaded, spring gun on an air table with some sort of wind up timer attached to trip the trigger, the gun would slide along the table after it fired, but only because it expelled some air. Do the same experiment in a vacuum and the gun would appear to move slightly, but only because the spring and piston moved inside the body of the gun. The CG of all the parts would go nowhere.

        Gun Doc

        • Bobby Nations Says:

          I think that part of the confusion here is that we are using different reference points for the boundaries of our closed system examples.

          I was measuring the CG of the gasoline relative to the can itself meaning the can was the entire system. You appear to be using the can plus some point on a table to measure the CG of the can and the gasoline inside of it. So, your system and my system aren’t the same, which results in the measurements of the CG’s being different. In my example, the CG is measured in reference to the can. In your counterexample, the CG is measured in reference to a fixed location on a table. So, different reference points yield different answers.

          • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

            Bobby Nations,

            You cannot do anything useful with Newton’s laws of motion measuring the location of the CG relative to a non inertial reference frame. That is why I chose the reference I did.

            I assure you my analysis is correct. The small amount of movement of a firearm by the time the projectile reaches the muzzle is a revelation to most people. The contrast with what happens in a spring gun is especially revealing in that it rather pointedly shows why spring guns require special techniques maintain accuracy.

            I don’t know how much a typical spring gun piston weighs compare to the rest of the gun, but I’m pretty sure the ratio is much greater than that of (bullet + powder)/(gun) in a firearm.

            • Bobby Nations Says:

              Don,

              “I don’t think that this affects your other calculations much if at all, though. ”

              I already said that your calculations appear to be correct, no assurances necessary.

              Two things that you haven’t calculated are the effects of rotation about the center of mass (i.e. barrel rise) and the effects of torsional forces (i.e. twisting or torquing) from your calculations. These two affect accuracy more than straight-line movement to the rear. The torquing action, in particular, affects spring-piston rifles much more than firearms given that the steel springs can exhibit significant unwinding forces as they expand and push the piston towards the breech. This is less of an issue with gas-piston rifles. This effect is strong enough that most tuners will use some type of thrust washer in combination with special lubes to isolate the spring from the rest of the gun at both ends.

              Your and B.B.’s main points still hold: firearms move only slightly before the bullet exits the barrel, while airguns move a good bit more before the pellet exits the barrel. It’s one of the primary reasons that airguns are more difficult to shoot accurately and are such good training tools for firearm shooters

            • Bobby Nations Says:

              I am planning to tune my AirHawk this weekend, so I’ll weigh piston for you while I have it disassembled.

  • Got another question sent to the wrong address. This one is from Mike.

    Hey Tom – thought you might be able to help out or know someone who could – I have a career 909 single shot 9mm, at any rate I am missing the bolt handle (charging handle), it just pops into a hole in the bolt and obviously it was lost over the years….any idea where I can get one?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  • KidAgain Says:

    Great read this morning BB.

    It’s causing a stir to practice the best hod again.
    I lost patience with my springer a while ago and just don’t enjoy shooting it anymore. I’ve been shooting a 2240 lately as I make modifications to it. It’s my step father’s and he’s 80 years old in a couple days. He shoots rabbits to keep them from eating the roses and his lawn. Even my mom has taken shots with this thing and she was always against guns while I was growing up!
    Anyway, looking forward to tomorrow’s read. Maybe I’l drum up some patience and take out that old springer again.

    ka

  • pcp4me Says:

    BB,

    I simply could not wait till you did the review of the Ruger MK I pistol so yesterday I bought one from Wally World (Wal Mart) with the assurance I could return it for what ever reason or no reason at all so long as it was in like new condition and had all the original packing and such.

    I am not going to mess up your review by telling all, but I will give a few general observations.

    First, it is a BIG POWERFUL pistol. Recoil is moderate to severe. I did not chrono it, but it slams my metal traps HARD! So I am guessing their adverts of 500 fps with lead pellets are truthful.

    Second, with some attention to some (to me) deal breaking details, Ruger would have a REAL winner here. The gun has a really atrocious trigger! Advertised by Ruger at 5.5 # and verified on my tpg at 5.5 – 7# variable pull. However it feels like it is at least 15 # and there is a whole lot of creep and the let off point is not consistent. At first there was a lot of grittiness to the creep, but I removed the action from the stock and put moly lube on the sear/trigger engagement area. Only improvement was it felt smoother as the grittiness was gone. The creep, however, lasts all year. Deal breaker!

    Next, the sights definitely need some improvement. At 25′ it shoots 8 – 10 inches low and is still about 2″ low at full up setting. Since it is scopeable, that should not be a deal breaker, but I don’t like scopes on recoiling pistols so deal breaker to me!

    Those are improvements Ruger could make with a minor cost raise and THEN they would have a REAL winner. Because in spite of the sights and trigger, this gun shoots way better than it ought to given the horrible trigger. OFF HAND at 25′ I could easily get 1 – 1.5″ groups. With one hand rested lightly on a sandbag groups shrunk to slightly less than 1″. My RWS 6M only gives me .5″ groups rested the same way and it has a trigger to brag about! It is also recoiless! Course it will do way better with a better rest and more attention to sight picture.

    Most of the trigger problems stem from two things. First Ruger’s lawyers must have really scared the hell out of them because the springs they use in the trigger mechanism are really stiff. I measured the spring resistance uncocked at 3.5# on my tpg. So I am sure the spring resistance cocked is most of the trigger pull weight! Also the danged thing has an estimated 1/4 – 1/3″ sear engagement! There is just NO WAY to have an accidental discharge with this gun! Using lighter springs and reducing the sear engagement to .1″ or a tad less so the trigger is around a consistent 2.5 – 3 # and making sure the gun is on target in the middle of the sight adjustment range would turn this from a return to a keeper!

    Ruger could make those changes and probably charge only about $10 more and this gun would really shine!

    One final thing. It comes with a cocking assist. Put it on and leave it on! You will seriously mar your hands trying to cock it without the aid and it does not interfere with the group size installed. Nor does it come loose from recoil and vibration. Oh, and the other final thing? The factory must have soaked the action in gun oil! When I removed the action from the stock, the oil just ran off and pooled on my bench! I put about 500 rounds through it, and it still smokes badly!

    • pcp4me,

      The Ruger Mk 1 will not be available to airgun retailers. Umarex has made it a big-box-only product. No review is forthcoming.

      Edith

    • pco4me,

      Like Edith said, it’s only for the box/discount stores, so probably no review.

      B.B.

      • flobert Says:

        I saw that at Wally’s and well …. the bang-for-the-buck ratio may be pretty good.

        It could be a Crosman 1377 killer, and over time people may figure out how to smooth out its imperfections. Such as, how best to make sure the “cocking aid” stays on and doesn’t move around, how to do a trigger job on it etc.

        • pcp4me Says:

          Flobert,

          The gun is priced fairly low. But I simply refuse to deal with a gun with a horrible trigger unless I can easily correct it. This trigger design does not allow for any easy correction. You would need access to some pre-formed lighter trigger springs or a jig to make you own. You would also need some way to grind away a LOT of metal to reduce the sear engagement without affecting the hardness of the metal IF indeed it is hardened.

          You would also need to replace the front sight with I believe a lower one to get the point of impact to raise up. Even then the rear sight is less than ideal and appears to be a propriatory design which doesn’t lend itself to an after market replacement.

          If you could accomplish those things your self or Ruger would have who ever manufactures this gun do it, this indeed would be a great “bang for the buck” gun.

          Even though the gun is fairly big, it is not overly heavy as the action has the only metal parts. The rest appears to be some type of light weight polymer frame similar to what glock uses.

          It appears to have enough power to handle tree rat/rabbit sized pests up to about 20 yards. I would place it in the same power range as a P1 or the other “magnum” pistols out there but way lower priced.

          • flobert Says:

            Interesting. All things Ruger or Umarex or whoever is making the thing, could easily correct at the factory. Sadly, long creepy heavy trigger pulls are probably standard for guns sold in big box stores, since the buyers may never have shot an airgun at all and newbs tend to have *no* sense of what their trigger finger is doing. I’ve actually seen a newb accidentally pull off a shot on a gun that had about an 8-lb pull.

  • kevin Says:

    I have a lot of experience with shooting vertical and horizontal strings as well as two separate groups while using the same poa. :-)

    I really like todays article since it’s full of terrific tips on shooting more accurately.

    Here’s my 2 cents.

    I clean the barrel on every air gun when I receive it. I use B.B.’s technique with jb bore paste. Before shooting I always check all the screws, i.e., mounts if there’s a scope attached and stock screws. I shoot a new gun from a bench exclusively for pellet testing since I want to take myself out of the equation as much as possible.

    On a break barrel springer I’ve seen a loose pivot bolt cause vertical and horizontal stringing. I’ve seen a breech seal that was over shimmed or standing too proud cause vertical stringing. Setting a break barrel on your bench rest too hard can cause the barrel to open slightly. As B.B. noted so well in todays article the location of where the gun is rested can cause the groups to shift and/or open up. Of course, higher velocity/magnum air guns seem to amplify this phenomenon exponentially. Most of the springers I’ve shot like to be rested on the balance point of the gun AFTER IT’S COCKED.

    I’ve had good success tightening groups by resting low-mid powered springers on the slick side of a mouse pad. I use a thick impact gel pad (old bicycle seat cover) to rest magnum springers on when shooting from a bench.

    I like to cradle the rear stock in the “V” of my non shooting hand that is created between my thumb and forefinger. This helps me make minute adjustments on the target and allows the springer to ride back and forth during the shot cycle.

    I still can’t shoot groups like B.B. but I will continue to practice.

    kevin

  • Matt61 Says:

    Well, this blog may explain my experience of changing point of aim with my IZH 61 while keeping a tight group.

    The business of shooting with a light hold from a bench does explain some things like Nancy Tompkins saying that you should hold your thousand yard Palma rifle with a grip like you would hold a glass of water. I think she was using some 6mm caliber. But I’m having trouble believing that you use a loose hold for a 30-06. I tried that inadvertently with my M1 Garand and it hurt like hell. Donaldson obviously has the credentials, but I wonder if this is a case of the extremely knowledgeable somehow slipping into being extremely wrong. There’s the case of a grandmaster of Korean martial arts with encyclopedic knowledge telling me that the human body is designed to live 180 years! I would have written him off as a quack if I hadn’t seen him in action. And then there is the author of one of the definitive manuals of boxing technique who recommended that before a match, a fighter should not drink water for 24 hours because it would improve the electrical connections between his nerves and his general reactivity. People have a way of going off the rails with no warning even within their specialized field of knowledge.

    As for the loose bench hold for the high-powered rifles, this does call into question the whole business of shooting from a fixed vise. If the ideal is the loose hold, shouldn’t the vise be much worse than it obviously is? Anyway, I think as a practical matter, holding tight is going to serve you better in any sustained shooting effort. You might aspire to let yourself get pummeled by a powerful gun, but this is almost impossible to sustain, and your technique will start falling apart. Look at professional fighters and you can see that even they are not anxious to get hit.

    Matt61

    • Slinging Lead Says:

      Matt61

      On the subject of instinct shooting and Lucky McDaniel, I stumbled across this on gunbroker:

      http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=249742052

      A wee bit pricey if you ask me.

      • SL,

        That is actually very low for what is being offered. The gun alone is worth that much.

        There are two Instinct Shooting sets commonly out there. The Daisy Quick Skill one is by far more common and might bring $150 in complete condition. If this one was complete (it doesn’t seem to have the box, which is a huge deal in this case) it would be worth $800 and up. Just the Jennings book brings $150.

        B.B.

        • Matt61 Says:

          Say, that was fascinating about the family planning at the Erlangen Oktoberfest and sort of the way I had pictured that festival. Encountered something similar myself in the tunnel of a biking path. I will say that it was a perfectly reasonable assumption on the part of the couple that no sane person would be riding his bike at night in the middle of a driving rainstorm, but they had not reckoned on my extensive rain gear and helmet light. I think the whole encounter was brought off with dignity and discretion on both sides as I whizzed past with them apparently oblivious. It was sort of like the difference between encountering an animal out in the wild as opposed to the zoo. When I came to my senses I had missed my turn, and when I tried to backtrack I almost ran into a railing.

          Matt61

          • Matt,

            When I stepped over them, there were about 25,000 people at the fest and on the path I was walking there were several hundred. We all just stepped over them.

            B.B.

            • Victor Says:

              Sounds like this couple would make great shooters. They definitely have the right kind of focus. I just hope the follow through was what they had “planned”.
              Victor

    • flobert Says:

      In that Palma match Nancy would be shooting prone, wearing a jacket and using a good sling. I’m not sure if they have to use National Match slings or whether they can use the latest cuff type slings, but in any case yer strapped in and indeed, the forearm of the rifle sitting in your hand would feel kinda like a glass of water resting there. That hand would be in a glove, with the sling running under it, there’s a reason prone using the proper equipment is such an accurate position! The trigger hand would have a very light hold, like a 10m pistol shooter would have on their pistol, no “grip” just a consistent light contact all over. I’ve not heard of anyone doing the finger-pinch on the trigger benchrest type thing, although it may be worth experimenting with – in prone the trigger hand’s elbow is a support point and part of the position you’ve built.

      Now when you’re strapped in like that, the sling is pulling the rifle back into your shoulder, and the thing is, you have your sling and jacket etc set up so it’s the same every time. So you don’t have your Palma rifle getting a run at you and whapping you. So there’s no “artillery hold” in high power rifle competition, but there’s a great deal of time and thought put into building a position that works for your physiology and is consistent, consistent, consistent.

      But then, as B.B.’s pointed out, in high power you have a firing pin hitting a round and the bullet leaving the barrel at about 3000 fps, little light parts doing something quickly that’s done when the ignition starts, then in a tiny amount of time the bullet’s on its way. Whereas, in a spring gun as B.B. points out, all kinds of stuff involving bigger parts (the piston and spring etc) is going on while the pellet’s still in the barrel, and it leaves a 500-1000 fps. Competition shooters talk about lock time and barrel time, and shorter, stiffer barrels and titanium firing pins always sell.

      So uhh, where am I going here? I dunno but I think one implication is that you don’t have to let your hunting rifle beat you up. Get a good shooting jacket that’s practical for the field, and work on building positions that work for you and allow you to get the gun firmly against your shoulder to start with. It’s a very complicated equation, with gun fit, technique, etc and everyone’s solution is unique. That’s what makes hitting stuff with a rifle so interesting.

  • Don (Gun Doc) Says:

    To add to the discussion I believe, but cannot prove, a vise holding the receiver TRULY FIXED would be a fine way to test a spring gun. The goal is consistency so that the gun can react the same way each time. TRULY FIXED or TRULY FREE are both good. But it is much easier, not to mention more practical, for people to approach truly free with the Artillery Hold than it is to approach truly fixed by holding the gun firmly. You are simply more consistent with a light hold.

    Gun Doc

    • Matt61 Says:

      I think this is probably right. But I wonder if the truly free artillery hold also benefits from a certain dampening effect since the loose body is a soft and nonelastic substance. And maybe it is the truly fixed vice that actually generates destabilizing vibrations in the gun sort of like the way someone in a car accident gets bounced around in the interior of their car even if it protects them from flying through the air. I don’t know. All of these effects would be happening on a very small scale, needless to say.

      Matt61

      • Mike Says:

        With the M-1, lock in with a tight sling and pull it into your shoulder, the sling will hold the rifle. Use a light grip with your trigger hand, ride the recoil, and follow through. Repeat as necessary. The targets will fall.

        Mike

  • kevin Says:

    Volvo,

    Those R-8′s still command quite a premium don’t they?

    kevin

    • Volvo Says:

      Kevin,

      Was that you that won the one on GB? I gave it a half hearted run, but with 3 old 50′s I’m pretty well set.
      Got lucky with number 3, appears it may have been professionally tuned, or at least worked on by someone with skill.
      I will probably dump #2 on the yellow soon.
      If you get a chance, let me know what velocity you are getting out of your R8.

  • Victor Says:

    B.B.,
    I see those two tight groups and wonder what the magic is to making it one. If you could, it would be one sweet shooting rifle. What’s the jump look like when you shoot it?
    Victor

    • Victor,

      In this particular case, it was where I positioned my off hand. A quarter-inch, or so, made all the difference.

      I shot other two-group “groups” like this by varying how I relaxed before the shot. Same principal but harder to repeat.

      B.B.

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