Archive for May 2012

Gallery dart gun: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

David Lurch Primary New York City gallery gun.

You readers have been very patient waiting for the next installment on this report! For that, I thank you. This project is taking a long time because it isn’t on the front burner (it probably isn’t even on the stove!) and because this is the kind of project in which you must “make haste slowly.”

Last time, I described the gun (it’s a smoothbore, so it’s not a rifle) and told you some of the general, as well as some specific, history of this particular example. Today, I want to honor Mr. Duskwight, our Muscovite blog reader who’s actively building a recoilless spring-piston rifle of his own design! Duskwight became fascinated with the performance of the Whiscombe air rifle and decided he could build one. Many of us have said similar things, but in this case the conviction remained even after he sobered up; and he’s spent many long months and a LOT of money making his dream come true.

By watching what happened to him, we’ve learned just how difficult and risky it is to build something from scratch. You don’t just tackle the technical job with all its intricacies and challenges. You also take on the entire socio-economic profile of your society, enduring substandard work, business failures, technical incompetence and on and on.

What I’ll show you today has one additional complexity added to the story. The builders didn’t have access to modern machine tools! Most of what you are going to see was made with files and hand labor. The metal hardening was done using a forge and eyeball, carefully judging the state of the metal by its color. If anything had to be timed, they did it with a pocketwatch instead of a digital timer linked to a time standard.

And the design came from someone’s head! There probably were no drawings in the “factory,” which was really just a quiet workshop. If they required anything to go by, there were possibly pattern parts that journeymen makers copied. While it’s true that what you are going to see is very simplistic, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s simple to do! Each part has to fit, and each part has a specific job to do if the whole item is to work as intended.

Enough talk, let’s see what this baby looks like. The first thing I will show is the new crank that Dennis Quackenbush made for the rifle.

Like the gun itself, this crank looks deceptively simple. It’s just a gear and a handle to turn it. Yes, but that gear isn’t as simple as it appears. Dennis has made cranks like this before, so he thought this one would be straightforward. He asked me for the width of the hole the gear fits into, as well as the width of a second hole on the inside of the gun that serves as a bearing for the crank once it’s inserted. I gave him those two dimensions, and within a month he sent me a pinion gear with instructions to try to fit it to the rack gear inside the gun.

I did, and it was a no-go. Dennis thought it would simply be a case of cutting a new gear that had more teeth; in his experience, these gears had one of only two different numbers of teeth on the pinion gear. Unfortunately, that wasn’t it, either! We were stumped. He had to see the gun.

We met at this year’s LASSO shoot, and he got the chance to examine the gun. When he did, he discovered that the rack gear in my gun is different from any other he’s seen. Apparently, David Lurch, who made the gun, had a better idea. He filed the rack gear teeth on a bias; as the crank is turned, the handle is also pulled tight against the mechanism because of the angle of the meshing teeth. A straight-cut gear cannot mesh with teeth cut on a bias, even when the number of teeth are the same because they aren’t set at the correct angle.

This time, Dennis took the gun home with him so he could cut the new pinion gear to the corresponding angle. He delivered the new crank assembly at the Malvern airgun show, and as you can see, it fits perfectly. He intentionally did not harden the new pinion gear because he wanted it to be the sacrificial part on the gun. The gun’s rack gear is hardened. If anything fails in operation, it’ll be this gear, which can always be remade. But he didn’t stop there.

The crank Dennis made fits the gallery gun very well. It’s still shiny, but I will take care of that with a browned finish later.

The crank turns the pinion gear, which engages the rack gear attached to the piston, withdrawing it as the springs are compressed.

Dennis contacted collector Larry Hannusch, who was kind enough to disassemble one of his Primary New York City gallery dart guns and remove the double volute spring mechanism so Dennis could have a look at it. Larry had seen my gallery gun at the Malvern airgun show the year before and was quite taken by it — as most collectors are. It’s not that this is an especially beautiful example, or that it’s extremely rare. It’s just that each one of these guns was made by hand, so every one is a collection unto itself. Just as Duskwight will be forever proud of all the effort he puts into his new rifle, so we can appreciate all the labor and skill that went into making one of these dart guns in the 1860s.

Larry brought the spring mechanism from his gallery gun and Dennis took measurements. He plans on making a new double-volute mainspring assembly for my gun. This will be the first time he’s made one of these springs; and to my knowledge, it hasn’t been done in recent times. It’s very possible that someone has made one and just not written about it, of course; but as far as I know, this will be the first time a double-volute mainspring has been made and documented in modern times. The documentation is important. How are we going to know about these old dart guns if we can’t test them? And nobody seems to be writing about them, so I guess I’m going to be the first one.

Last year at Malvern, Larry Hannusch showed me how to disassemble my gun. It proved about as easy as disassembling a Garand, but I had shied away from trying because of the age of the airgun. I really thought the gun would be fragile. But after seeing how things go together and how robust the parts are, I have confidence that I can work on this gun just as easily as I would a modern spring rifle.

A gallery gun works just like any other spring-piston airgun. The piston is driven forward by springs, rapidly compressing air in front of it that pushes the dart out the barrel. The big difference in this Lurch gallery gun is that the piston is very large (over 1.5-inches in diameter), and the piston stroke is quite long (about three inches). Those volute springs I thought were so fragile are probably far more robust than coiled steel wire springs. Seeing them up close and examining their potential travel gave me a new appreciation for the ingenuity of these old gun makers.

This is a gallery gun piston with its two volute springs and a spring guide that you cannot see. Notice that this piston seal doesn’t look like mine, which you’ll soon see. Mine is a replacement that needs to be trimmed.

The rear spring has been removed, and you can now see the spring guide that sits between both springs. Notice the piston rod is the rack gear that the crank works with to cock the gun.

Here you see how a volute spring works. It’s a coiled steel bar that’s pulled into this cone shape before hardening. It’s incredibly strong, plus it has a huge length of travel before becoming fully compressed.

This is the piston assembly with springs and spring guide. The tiny notch seen on the side of the piston rod opposite the rack gear teeth is the sear notch, properly called the “bent” at the point in time this gun was made. That’s what the trigger holds onto!

Are you enjoying this so far? Well, there’s more to come. Now, I’ll disassemble my gallery gun and show you the parts we’ve been talking about.

The compression chamber simply unscrews from the action of the gun. There’s no fastener holding the two assemblies together other than the threads seen here. You can actually see the color-hardening of the piston rod that has the rack gear teeth, but I’ll show it closer.

The rear screw is removed from the triggerguard, which is then unscrewed from the action. The front of the hand-filed brass guard is a screw!

Two screws are removed, and the wooden butt is separated from the action. You can see the rear of the piston rod in this view.

In this view, you can see the entire piston rod. The sear notch is also visible, opposite the rack gear teeth. Each gear tooth was filed by hand. Notice how much excess leather hangs down from the piston head.

The piston rod was hardened to a medium blue, which is pretty hard! The excess leather on the seal really stands out.

Here you can see that the gear teeth were cut on a bias to pull the cocking crank tight into the gun when it’s wound.

The side of the brass triggerguard still shows the marks of the maker’s file that shaped the piece to fit the gun after it was cast.

Well, that’s what the inside of a 150-year-old handmade airgun looks like. Dennis is going to make a pair of volute springs for me, but in the meantime I may try to get the gun operational with a coiled steel spring. It won’t be ideal, but it may provide me with a platform for testing the darts that I’m going to have to make.

The caliber appears to be exactly .25, as a .256 bullet will stop after entering the breech. So, I may be able to find large .25-caliber pellets that fit, and there may even be a .25-caliber dart I can find.

The bore is pretty ugly from the neglect of more than a century, so that will be my next task. I don’t know when I will return to this airgun again, but you can rest assured that it’s in the queue.

I found my silver dime!
In other news, my silver dime has returned! It was hidden under a Post-It note on a desk I’d used temporarily when changing computers several weeks ago. So, you will be seeing silver soon.

Quackenbush .308: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Quackenbush .308 big bore is an attractive airgun.

The last time we looked at this Quackenbush .308 big bore was when I discovered that my rifle really likes Mr. Hollowpoint’s 68-grain hollowpoint bullet. I also tested a 150-grain Loverin-design bullet that was just a bit too heavy for the gun. It didn’t want to stabilize and was tearing elongated holes in the target at 50 yards.

If you’ll recall, I was running low on air that day, so I could fill the rifle to only 3,000 psi. That gave a stunning group that was smaller than one inch at 50 yards with the 68-grain hollowpoint, but I wondered whether it would do any better if I filled the rifle to higher pressure. I also wondered if going just a trifle faster would have stabilized the 150-grain bullet. There were a lot of unanswered questions after the last test.

Today, I’ll address those questions. I had a full air tank and a reasonably good day at the range. Certainly for testing something as stable as a .308, the light breeze was no challenge.

Shooting the 68-grain hollowpoints
I decided to fill the rifle to 3,500 psi, to see what kind of velocity that might give. The 68-grain bullet averaged 1051 f.p.s, on that much air and left about 3,100 psi in the tank for the second shot. That’s a muzzle energy of 167.15 foot-pounds.

Shot two averaged 1,010 f.p.s. with the same 68-grain bullet and generated 154.07 foot-pounds of energy. You might think that’s close enough to the first velocity that the bullets will print in the same place. They might if this was a firearm — but it’s an air rifle, and we have to take the flexing of the horizontal air reservoir into account. As the pressure inside the air reservoir changes, the reservoir — which is a long tube — flexes a tiny bit. Since it’s connected to the barrel, this flexing can cause movement in the muzzle.

The first shots printed about two inches higher on the target than the second shots. I knew they would from past experience shooting other big bores, so this came as no surprise to me. I actually shot one group of first shots (after a 3,500 psi fill) at one target and a separate group of second shots at a second target.

After seeing where the shots landed relative to the aim point, it’s possible to use the mil-dot reticle in my scope to shoot both shots into the same group by using two different aim points. This is a technique I learned several years ago with my .458 Outlaw; and with it, I can put five bullets into one inch at 50 yards. I didn’t try that on this day, however, because I was too busy learning the gun.

Neither group obtained this day was as good as the group I shot last time on just 3,000 psi of air. The first group that was shot on 3,500 psi measured 2.72 inches between centers for five shots, though four of those shots landed in a group measuring 1.219 inches.

Four of the five bullets were close at 50 yards on 3,500 psi. Two landed in the same hole.

The group that was fired on 3,100 psi measured 1.953 inches between centers. That’s twice the size of the best group that was shot several weeks ago on 3,000 psi, so I think this bullet is going too fast for best results. It looks to me like this 68-grain hollowpoint wants no more than 3,000 psi as a max charge. That would put the velocity at around 970-980 f.p.s.

Lower starting pressure gave a tighter group. This one was made with 3,100 psi.

Did the 150-grain bullets stabilize?
Again, the 150-grain bullets failed to completely stabilize — even when driven to 825 f.p.s (on 3,600 psi air) and generating 226.75 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Both bullet holes show evidence of tipping. The bullet is not stabilized.

Clearly, this Loverin bullet is too long to stabilize at the velocity this rifle generates. What’s needed is a 120- to 130-grain bullet that’s short, which means it must have either a round or a flat nose.

Some observations
I’m seeing a relationship between soft pure lead bullets and better accuracy. Any hardening alloy seems to open up the group.

Ditto for lubricated bullets. So far, the best, most accurate bullets are those that are completely dry. I see now that I need to cast some more 130-grain bullets in lead that is as pure as I can make it, and shoot them absolutely dry. I’ve seen the performance of pure lead bullets on game, and they hold together far better than hard alloy bullets do. Lead hardened with antimony breaks apart in large chunks, while soft lead mashes up like a wad of bubble gum when it hits game.

I’ve always questioned using a .308 for game as large as a deer. I know hunters who are better shots than I am do it all the time and have great success, but for me the .308 is more of a coyote and bobcat round. I’ll leave the deer and wild hogs to the .458 and keep this .308 for smaller game. It probably has a useful range of 125 yards in my hands. For an air rifle, that’s pretty far!

New-old-stock TS-45 air rifles!: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This TS-45 rifle is probably at least 30 years old, yet also brand new.

Let’s look at the velocity of my new-old-stock TS-45. It’s been many years since I tested a really old Chinese airgun, so this was a nostalgic test for me. The TS-45 surprised me by being smoother to cock and fire than I imagined. The stock bolts were loose; but once I tightened them, the rifle fired quite smoothly and without a lot of aftershocks. I think that’s mostly due to the low power rather than any special fitting of the powerplant parts. Randy Mitchell did lubricate the powerplant of this rifle, but an older Chinese spring-piston air rifle needs a lot more than a lube tune to straighten up.

The non-adjustable trigger is single-stage and if you pull it slowly it releases consistently at around 5 lbs., 14 oz. You don’t want it any lighter because of the danger of this mechanism slipping off the sear while loading. As cumbersome as it is, I always put my arm in the path of the cocking lever while I’m loading, just in case the sear lets go.

Velocity testing
The first pellet I tried to test was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier — the so-called Premier Lite. I say I tried to test the velocity, but it was all over the place. The first shot went 564 f.p.s. and stayed there for two more shots. Then shot No. 4 leaped up to 750 f.p.s. And the feel of the gun at firing was more harsh, which told me it was dieseling pretty heavily. No detonations (explosions) were heard, but I suspect we were running just shy of them.

The Premier pellet fit the bore tightly, which I take as a good sign for potential accuracy. They’ll certainly be among those pellets I use for accuracy testing.

The velocity remained in the 700s for a few shots, then slipped back through the 600s to the 500s again. By the time I had fired 16 shots, we were down to 523 f.p.s.; but I knew the velocity would drop even lower than that, so I switched to the next pellet.

Next up were RWS Hobbys. They started out at 558 f.p.s. and dropped to 523 f.p.s. by the tenth shot, but the average for the string was a healthy 552 f.p.s. I suspect that number is a bit high, but it’s close to the real velocity with this lightweight pellet. Accepting it as fact gives us an average muzzle energy of 4.74 foot-pounds.

Like the Premier, these Hobbys also fit the bore tightly. They will be tested for accuracy, as well.

One nice thing about Hobbys is that they force a lot of dieseling for some reason. Perhaps, it’s due to their lightness, but I often find they’ll burn off excess lubricant when a gun has just been tuned.

The next pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon dome. These pellets fit the bore loosely, and I don’t have a lot of hope for their accuracy potential. They averaged 512 f.p.s., which seemed close to the real velocity. The range went from 500 to 529, so the rifle is definitely becoming more stable. At the average velocity, they generated 4.25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Back to the Premiers
The rifle seemed to have settled down by this time, so I tried chronographing the Crosman Premiers once more. This time they were very stable at an average 464 f.p.s. The range went from 462 to 466 f.p.s., so the rifle seems to have settled in — at least as much as it’s going to for now. A crude spring rifle like this always needs about a thousand shots through it to fully break in and start performing the way it was meant to, but I doubt the velocity will change by more than 20-30 f.p.s.

At this velocity, the rifle generates an average 3.78 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. While that seems low, remember that spring guns do favor lighter pellets, and this one will probably follow that trend very closely.

So, how do I like the TS-45 so far? Well, I see a lot of pellet rifles over the course of a year, and this one isn’t the best that I’ve seen. It isn’t even in the top half. But it also isn’t at the bottom of the list. I’ve tested guns with a lot more power that I liked less than this one. If it weren’t so dangerous, this might be a nice little plinker.

The accuracy test is next, and those results will be very telling.

AirForce Talon SS precharged pneumatic air rifle: Part 7

by B.B. Pelletier

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

AirForce Talon SS is a whole shooting system.

The report that follows was done in error. I thought I was testing a Micro-Meter air tank, but it turned out that I was really testing a standard air tank.

The corrected test is located here.  I am sorry for this inconvenience, but you can click on the link in the sentence above and it will direct you to the correct test.

Today, I’m testing the AirForce Talon SS with the standard 12-inch barrel using the Micro-Meter air tank. This is the setup the tank was designed to use; and although I predicted that this test would look a lot like the last test with the Micro-Meter tank and an optional 24-inch barrel, I was wrong. Today’s test is amazing! It’s an insight into how a precharged airgun operates.

I’ll begin at the end. I fired a total of 340 shots on just one fill, and there was still plenty of air remaining for at least another 150 shots! I saw first hand at the NRA Annual Meetings how the Micro-Meter air tank stays on the line for so long without needing a refill!

But don’t go cashing in those 340 shots just yet. Allow me to explain what I did and how the gun performed.

As before with the longer barrel, the tank was filled to 3,000 psi. That proved to be a mistake in this case. Allow me to show you what I mean.

This time, I didn’t fool around with any pellets other than the .22-caliber Crosman Premier. Everything you’re about to read was achieved with that single pellet.

First 10 shots
The first 10 shots were fired on the lowest power setting and averaged 392 f.p.s., ranging from 347 to 442 f.p.s. That is a large spread, and, as you’ll see shortly, the valve was partially air-locked.

Shots 11-20
The next 10 shots were fired on the highest power setting and averaged 849 f.p.s.! That’s correct, the gun produced 22.89 foot-pounds with the Micro-Meter tank at the highest power setting. The low was 836, and the high was 861 f.p.s. That was clearly not what this tank was designed to do, so I dialed the power back to the halfway point, which corresponds to about the No. 6 on the dial.

Power setting 6
At this setting, the rifle averaged 836 f.p.s., so I stopped at shot 5. The low was 832, and the high was 839 f.p.s. I wasn’t interested in this kind of power from the Micro-Meter tank, and I didn’t want to waste air. So, I dialed back to power setting 2 and continued.

Power setting 2
On power setting 2, the rifle averaged 786 f.p.s. Again, I stopped at 5 shots. The low was 758, and the high was 803 f.p.s. By this, time a total of 30 shots had been fired on the fill. I dialed the power down as low as it would go and continued.

Shots 31-40
The next 10 shots on the lowest power setting averaged 514 f.p.s. The spread went from 487 to 537 f.p.s. It was clear that the valve was now staying open longer, and I would estimate the tank pressure had dropped to 2,800 psi by the start of this string. I could see at this point that this was going to be a long test, though I never imagined how long; so, I shot twenty “blank” shots (dry-fires that had no pellets) just to use up some air. It’s arguable whether shots that have no pellet in front of them use the same amount of air as shots that do have pellets. As you’ll see, it really doesn’t matter that much because we haven’t even started yet!

Shots 61-70
The gun is still on the lowest power setting, and this 10-shot string averaged 574 f.p.s. The low was 550, and the high was 628 f.p.s. After this, I fired another 20 shots with no pellets.

Shots 91-100
The gun is still set at the lowest power. These 10 shots averaged 649 f.p.s. and ranged from 603 to 689 f.p.s. In retrospect, after the test was over, I determined this string to be the start of the useful shots. I estimate the tank had about 2,500 psi at the start of this string — though that would have to be confirmed if the numbers meant enough to you to do the work. They didn’t to me, so 2,500 psi was just my estimate. Now, I fired 20 more blank shots.

Shots 121-130
This string averaged 703 f.p.s. and ranged from 633 to 743 f.p.s. After this, I fired 20 more blank shots

Shots 151-160
This string averaged 750 f.p.s. and ranged from 719 to 766 f.p.s. I would like to note that the rifle is now performing almost exactly the same as a Beeman R1 breakbarrel in .22 caliber! When this string was finished, I fired another 20 blank shots.

Shots 181-190
This string averaged 752 f.p.s. and ranged from 743 to 757 f.p.s. This was the top power the rifle developed in this test, and I would estimate the pressure at the start of this string was around 1,900 psi. The gun will not use air in a linear fashion as the shots increase. As the air pressure in the tank drops, the valve stays open longer. I then fired another 20 blank shots.

Shots 211-220
This string averaged 735 f.p.s and ranged from a low of 727 f.p.s. and a high of 740 f.p.s. Notice how tight these later strings are! You could shoot at 35 yards with the gun shooting like this! And you could also hunt with it. I then fired another 20 blank shots.

Shots 241-250
This string averaged 713 f.p.s. and ranged from 707 to 726 f.p.s. The rifle is slowing down, but the valve is keeping each 10-shot string relatively tight. I then fired another 20 blank shots.

Shots 271-280
This string averaged 688 f.p.s. and ranged from 682 to 694 f.p.s. I then fired another 20 blank shots.

Shots 301-310
This string averaged 659 f.p.s. and ranged from 652 to 664 f.p.s. Notice how tight this string is after 300 shots have been fired! No other air rifle that I know of can do this when running on air. The USFT might be able to, but I haven’t tested it this way to see. I then fired another 20 blank shots.

Shots 331-340
This string averaged 624 f.p.s. and ranged from 613 to 630 f.p.s. This was where I stopped the test; but as you can see, the gun will still continue shooting for a lot longer.

Ending air pressure in the tank
After 340 shots had been fired, the Micro-Meter tank still had 1,200 psi remaining. That isn’t an estimate — I actually determined it by filling the tank and noting when it began accepting a charge. If my estimate about the pressure was correct when I declared the gun to be on the power curve (at shot 91), and if I include all the shots fired after that, then there were a total of 250 useful shots on a fill to 2,500 psi. The gun got those shots on about 1,300 psi of air. That is remarkable when you consider that it was also developing some pretty respectable power at the same time.

Remember what the Micro-Meter tank is for
To accept what I’m saying, you must keep in mind that the Micro-Meter tank is for shooting quietly in your basement. The range I envision is 10 meters, maximum, though we can see that the rifle can actually shoot a lot farther than that. But that’s not the purpose of the tank.

If the starting fill pressure is only 2,500 psi like I suspect, then the Micro-Meter tank can be easily filled from a hand pump. Another good thing about this novel air tank.

If you want to use the adjustable power feature of the gun, the range will be in the lower numbers. After the halfway point on the power scale, the rifle is just wasting air.

I’ve tested the Micro-Meter tank in the past, but never before with the mindset of its real purpose. Now that I have that in mind, this test has revealed an incredible level of performance.

Sure the velocity varied a lot over the useful shot strings; but at 10 meters, I doubt anyone will notice. For plinking and keeping the grandkids amused, the Micro-Meter tank is the lazy man’s PCP!

Next, I plan to test that theory with an accuracy test of this tank and gun combination at 10 meters.

Great expectations!

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Adrian Cataldo Beltran 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. Congratulations!

Adrian Cataldo Beltran is the BSOTW.

This is the second time I’ve used this title for a blog. The last time was a blog I did back in July 2007, almost five years ago. In that report, I was mostly addressing the expectations of accuracy that new airgunners have and how they relate to reality. Today, I want to look at something different.

Today I want to look at our secret hopes — those unspoken agendas that push us and direct us toward gun purchases that can sometimes disappoint us. I had one of these happen to me just this week.

When I was a boy back in the 1950s, I loved the Winchester model 61 slide-action .22 repeater — what we kids called a pump gun in those days. I loved it because every time I got to shoot one, which wasn’t that often, the rifle spoke to me. It was just the right size, with a slick action that seemed to bespeak rapid-fire accuracy. Since I never shot at anything smaller than a soup can, I don’t suppose that real accuracy ever came into question, but that gun just SEEMED accurate to me.

As a young adult in the middle 1970s, I had the opportunity to buy a 98 percent model 61 that had been produced in 1953. It still had the original box and cost the exorbitant price of $250, but I knew it was worth every penny. I didn’t actually shoot it that much, but I shot it enough to know that my childhood imagination had amplified the rifle’s true capabilities. It was accurate enough for what it was, but it was no tack-driver. Anyhow, the day finally came when I was forced to sell it before I apparently fulfilled my fascination for the gun — because a couple years ago I had a chance to buy another one in very good shape (call it a 75-percent gun) for just $550. This time I could afford the gun, but I didn’t act quick enough and the opportunity passed.

Last week I passed the pawn shop where I had seen the model 61 for sale, and once more the same childish thoughts flashed through my mind. And here’s the point of what I’m telling you. I now own a Marlin model 39A that is even slicker than the Winchester, and a Remington model 37 target rifle whose accuracy can embarrass almost every other .22 on earth. So why does my heart still yearn for the old pump gun that I know can’t compete with the guns I have? I think it’s that eternal desire to return to my childhood!

I had the exact same experience with a Daisy No. 25 slide-action BB gun, only this time I actually acquired nine of the things — all in beautiful, collectible condition. Owning them for over two decades allowed me to purge the demons from my past; and a couple years ago, I started quietly selling off that collection. The void in my heart had been filled.

At one time, I had the itch for a Colt Woodsman .22 pistol, because as a youngster I shot my uncle’s gun and did very well with it at 25 yards. From the prone position with a two-hand hold, that pistol grouped like a fine .22 rifle! But I’ve owned several Woodsman pistols over the years, and the experience has filled that pothole in my character. I know now that a Ruger Mark II can be just as accurate and just as reliable for one-quarter the price.

The longest itch I ever had was for the M1 Carbine, because I still have it even though I own one! I have owned several, and all have been good shooters — if not terribly accurate. But something about the little semiautomatic action that’s still impossible for gunmakers to build (no semiautomatic rifle has ever been made that was as light and powerful as the M1 Carbine) turns me on! I cannot pass one by. It’s as though I need to own them all, even though I have whittled my own “collection” down to just one good gun.

The strangest itch I ever had was for one specific gun. Years ago, I acquired a Trapdoor Springfield rifle that was in NRA antique good condition. It wasn’t anything to look at; but the bore was great, and it was fun to shoot. But I tired of that hard-kicking rifle after many years and eventually traded it away. Then, seller’s remorse set in. A year later, when I saw it up for sale, I bought it back. And I had it for several more years until I traded it away a second time. Then, a couple months later, I learned that the new owner intended selling it because the barrel was too long for him, so I traded for it, again. I also own a really accurate scoped .45-70 rolling block that I shoot all the time, but apparently I cannot stand to not also own this tired-looking old Trapdoor. Like a prized horse that’s been put out to pasture, I guess this one will remain with me until my estate sells it!

The point of this report
What I’m driving at today is that all shooters carry some baggage. For me, it’s the Winchester 61 and the others I’ve mentioned; but for you, a Browning Auto 5 may light your fire, or perhaps you find Lugers fascinating! I know that Mac has a soft spot for any shotgun in .410 caliber. Somewhere on the path of life, we have an experience or even just a fascination, and it starts the pot inside us brewing with lust.

BB’s Kryptonite
Old B.B. Pelletier still has a couple voids left in his soul besides the Winchester. One would be a beautiful blue H&R model 999 Sportsman .22 revolver. There’s just something mystical about that break-open design that fascinates me! I have the good sense to know that I couldn’t possibly shoot it any better than any other top-quality revolver, but something about it still haunts me. I have never even fired one shot from a 999, so of course the thing is really buried deeply under my saddle! I fantasize about breaking open the action and watching those nine empty cases extract from the cylinder, as if by magic. It’s not a healthy wish, but this one’s on my bucket list.

For some asinine reason, I’m fascinated by the Johnson semiautomatic battle rifle of World War II. They’re all selling for way over $2,000 these days, and good ones go for much more; so this is an itch I don’t ever expect to scratch — but it’s still there. I would probably be underwhelmed by one if I shot it, because I’ve shot the Garand (another itch that has been satisfied many times!), but I guess you want most the things you can’t have.

Oh, and for some dumb reason, I find I cannot look away from an 8mm Hakim battle rifle. I know it’s because I’ve owned so many of the air rifle trainers, but the phrase “the poor man’s Garand” has sunk its hook firmly into my lips. I’ve come very close to pulling the trigger on several fine-looking Hakims in the past but was always put off by their poor bores that resulted from firing corrosive 8mm military ammunition.

In airguns, my secret desire is to own another Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic. I owned one years ago and learned that it was no more powerful nor more accurate than a simple Blue Streak, but something about the robust styling of the gun still attracts me. Years ago, I was forced to sell the one I had for economic reasons, so the fascination was never completely satisfied. And I sold it just after the prices began to rise. I told myself I would buy another one when I could, and then I encountered the super-inflationary price increases of recent years.

A couple years back, I had the chance to buy a nice Supergrade at the Roanoke airgun show and I even (momentarily) had the money to buy it! But something inside stopped me from forking over the cash. And that was two weeks before I made the landmark trade for my Ballard rifle — so I guess the still small voice I listened to was the voice of reason that time! I had to use the cash to buy several things that were used in that trade, so it was either the Ballard or the Supergrade.

To quote Minnie Pearl, “I’m done playin’ now!” I want to spend the rest of this weekend reading about what turns YOUR crank!

El Gamo 68/68-XP – A futuristic airgun from the past: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.

Today, I’ll take the El Gamo 68 to the next level of accuracy testing. I mounted a scope and went back to 25 yards to see what this gun can do.

Blog reader Mike sent me a trigger shoe he wasn’t using, and I installed it on the rifle’s thin blade. It made all the difference in the world. I don’t think I could have endured the 80+ shots that went into today’s test without it! Thanks, Mike!

The trigger shoe made the heavy pull pleasant.

I mentioned mounting a scope on the rifle before I checked it out. The 11mm scope dovetails are cut into the top of the spring tube and are very short by today’s standards. I was able to mount only a Leapers Bug Buster scope using 2-piece BKL mounts. The Bug Buster is a very compact scope, whose size compliments the 68 — and the eye relief worked out fine, so this was a happy coincidence.

A Leapers Bug Buster scope fit the small 68 very well.

The test
I used this test not only to see how accurate the 68 is at 25 yards, but also to see if there’s a difference between seating pellets flush and seating them deep with an Air Venturi Pellet Pen’s PellSet. Each pellet shot one 10-shot group seated each way. Let’s see how it went.

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets
I first shot a 10-shot group of H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets seated flush with the breech. The group measured 0.963 inches between centers.

Then, I shot another 10-shot group with the same pellets seated deep. It measured 1.232 inches between centers. Clearly, the flush-seated pellets were best.

Flush pellets on the left, deep-seated on the right. The flush pellets are more accurate.

Air Arms Falcon
Next, I tried the Air Arms Falcon dome. Ten pellets seated flush gave a group measuring 1.163 inches between centers. Ten seated deep printed into 1.28 inches. This is too close to call.

Flush pellets on the left, deep-seated on the right. Too close to call.

RWS Hobby
The last pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby pellet. And here we had a reversal of the first test with the H&N target pellets –because the deep-seated pellets out-grouped the flush-seated ones. Flush-seated pellets grouped in 1.311 inches at 25 yards. Deep-seated pellets grouped in 0.888 inches, which was the best group of the test, though the initial sight-in group of Hobbys did group even better. But all the controls of the test weren’t in place when I shot that first group, so I can’t count it.

Flush pellets on the left, deep-seated on the right. This time, the deep-seated pellets performed best.

Bottom line
The results didn’t turn out as good as I expected. The 68 is accurate, but it’s not a 10-meter rifle in disguise. Having the trigger shoe makes the heavy trigger-pull comfortable, but a lighter pull would be much better.

As for the seating exercise, it seems to work with some pellets but not with others. And, of course, I haven’t yet experimented with different seating depths.

The next step with the 68 will be to disassemble the rifle and see what I can do to slick it up a bit.

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

You know how your wife buys a new trash can for the kitchen, and it doesn’t match the front of the old refrigerator that you’ve been talking about replacing for several years? So, you buy a new fridge, but you want this one to have an ice dispenser in the door; so, you hire a plumber to run the water lines; as long as he’s there, you decide it’s time to replace the chipped sink with a new stainless-steel double sink; but as long as he’s under there, you might as well have him replace the water supply lines and the waste pipes. Then, your wife doesn’t like how the new sink looks against the old green Formica counters, and she wants those granite countertops you’ve been promising her ever since you forgot your 17th anniversary; but the new countertops won’t look right on the old painted cabinets, so you decide on some Scandinavian teak cabinets with glass doors; and now the chipped dishes look out of place. [Note from Edith: This is hypothetical. It's not a true story about us!]

So, seven months later, the total bill for the new trash can comes to 70 thousand dollars? Well, that’s what I seem to have gotten into with the Air Venturi Bronco. I was just testing the new Bronco Target Sight kit on the rifle, and I raked back the compost pile a little too far. So, today, you’re going to benefit from my puttering gone amuck.

I took a lot of heat from you guys in my last report. You didn’t like how I did things, plus I introduced the new Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet and called it maccaroni without any warning! Well, shame on me!

I began today’s test by mounting the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope on the rifle. The Bronco has a hole for a vertical scope stop pin, so I was able to anchor the two-piece mounts rock-solid.

I thought I would back up just a bit and see just what the best pellet is for this rifle, and then see if there’s a difference between seating that pellet flush and seating it deep. I started at 10 meters with five-shot groups, just to weed out the pellets that were not worth pursuing. They were all pretty good, but the lightweight Air Arms Falcon was just a bit better than the rest.

I realize that this is a test of a peep sight, but my last report raised some questions about the rifle’s accuracy that I felt needed to be laid to rest before the test was continued. I’m validating the rifle before I continue reporting on the new sight.

Then, I backed up to 25 yards and shot two 10-shot groups. One was with the pellets seated flush with the end of the breech, and the other was with the pellets seated deeper, using the PellSet. Let’s look at my results before I analyze them.

Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets seated flush with the end of the barrel went into this 25-yard group that measures 0.531 inches. The group is reasonably round.

Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets seated deep with a PellSet made this 0.821-inch group at 25 yards. Nine of the ten pellets went into a group measuring 0.564 inches.

Looking at both the shape and size of these groups, I would be tempted to say the flush-seated pellets shot best. And there’s no doubt that this Bronco can shoot. But let’s not make up our minds just yet.

See that “flyer” in the deep-seated pellet group? It wasn’t a called flier. The hold and release were perfect. There is no reason that pellet should be that far away from the rest of the pellets at 25 yards.

What I’m not showing you are some other 10-meter groups with different pellets that also had strange fliers like this one. I had removed both the front and rear sights, so we can’t blame the front sight screws for being too long. But something is happening with this rifle that’s unusual.

Edith questioned me in the same way that I know the rest of you are going to question me. Didn’t I have good groups in the past? Why is this rifle suddenly shooting like this?

I went back and looked at the groups I shot in Part 3 of this report. If you do the same, you’ll see a couple “fliers” in those groups, as well. The difference is that those groups were shot at 10 meters instead of 25 yards.

So, then I went back to the 7-part report I did on the Bronco and examined those targets. In Part 5 of that report, I shot the rifle with a scope at 25 yards and guess what? There are “fliers” within some of the groups.

What’s happening?
I think the Bronco I’ve been testing is extremely accurate, but it has also been throwing fliers like this all along. I chalked them up to my poor shooting instead of something else. Now that I’ve examine the rifle under the microscope, I’m not so sure it was me. I think this rifle has been tipping pellets all along. It’s only when the gun is fired at 25 yards that this becomes evident.

I think this has gotten worse recently, but I cannot say with certainty what’s causing it. It’s clear from the two groups shown here that the rifle can really shoot, but I think it can do even better than it currently is.

I have a plan to try to remedy this situation; and, at the worst, it will not affect the accuracy of the rifle. But if I succeed, this rifle could shoot smaller groups than you see here.

I need to try my remedy before returning to finish the report on the peep sight kit, because I think it has been affecting the results. And there’s a second problem I’ve identified with the peep sights that has nothing to do with the sights, themselves, but with how I’ve been sighting the gun. I’ll describe that problem in detail for you and tell you how to easily avoid it.

Til then!

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