Archive for July 2012
by B.B. Pelletier
Back when I reviewed the 2012 SHOT Show, I showed you several new innovations that Gamo was bringing to the market this year. This rifle, the Gamo Rocket IGT .177 breakbarrel, contains the first of those I will test. I’m testing rifle serial No. 04-1C-138639-11, for those who wish to keep track.
One of the new technologies is in the title of this air rifle. The IGT stands for Inert Gas Technology, which is Gamo’s term for a gas spring. The gas spring replaces the conventional coiled steel wire mainspring with several improvements. It’s lighter in weight, doesn’t vibrate as much when fired, is resistant to cold, and can remain cocked for long periods without suffering any degradation. Compressed gas doesn’t fatigue like steel spring stock.
The second technology in this new rifle is the Smooth Action Trigger, or SAT, as Gamo calls it. It’s a two-stage trigger that’s so much better than Gamo triggers of the past that it deserves its own blog. The aluminum blade is well-shaped and vertical; so when it’s pulled, it comes straight back and doesn’t rotate upwards into the stock. The two stages are very clearly separated and stage two is quite crisp. I will say a lot more about it in Part 2 when I test rifle’s velocity.
The two technologies that the Rocket IGT does not have are the Bull Whisper barrel — a polymer-jacketed barrel with internal baffles — and the Shock Wave Absorber (SWA) recoil pad that helps dampen recoil. Since the Rocket IGT is not a super magnum rifle, I guess it doesn’t need either of these. But Gamo advertises this rifle at 1,300 f.p.s. while shooting .177 non-lead PBA pellets, so it’s no slouch. That velocity is printed on the outside of the box as well as on the spring tube of the gun. On the Pyramyd Air website, the velocity is listed as 1,250 with PBA ammo…and that’s also what Gamo advertises on their website. Either way, that’s a lot of power. I would think we could see some of the heavier accurate lead pellets go out the muzzle in the 900 f.p.s. range, which would be ideal. [Note from Edith -- I'm checking with Gamo on this discrepancy, but I suspect it's 1300 fps.]
This is a lightweight, slim air rifle. It weighs just 6.1 lbs. due to the use of synthetics in the barreled action and a synthetic stock. It harkens to the days of the Shadow 1000 and, more recently, the Whisper. Unlike the Whisper, this rifle has no baffles at the muzzle. Even so, the discharge sound isn’t that loud. It’s a solid three on the PA sound scale, but it’s not objectionable.
I haven’t been able to keep my paws off the gun since taking it from the box, and I can tell you that the initial shooting impression is a good one. First of all, even though it has a gas spring, I’m estimating that the cocking effort doesn’t exceed 35 lbs., and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it closer to 30. A gas spring exerts full pressure from the moment it’s first compressed, so you notice the cocking effort a lot more than with a coiled steel spring — but this Gamo is very nice in this respect.
The piston stroke is extra-long, which is where the power comes from. When you break the barrel to cock the gun, it folds down to within just four inches of the triggerguard. That means the cocking link is going far to the rear, pushing the piston into lockup with the sear; and that, in turn, means a long piston stroke.
The trigger is two-stage and very crisp. Old-timers will not recognize it as a Gamo trigger. It’s also adjustable, and I plan to evaluate it in Part 2.
The gun fires without a lot of recoil or vibration. It seems to have a lot of power, but we’ll find out for sure in Part 2. One thing I definitely love is the non-automatic safety. It’s there for you to apply — or not — as you choose, but you’re not forced to take it off before every shot. Bravo for Gamo!
More impressions of the rifle
The stock is slim and fits me quite well. It’s entirely ambidextrous, with a raised cheekpiece on both sides of the Monte-Carlo profiled butt. The pistol grip has a slight swell on both sides. Nothing about the rifle favors a right-handed shooter over a southpaw, which is a big plus in its favor.
The synthetic material the stock is made from is cool and slightly rough to the touch. The butt sounds solid, which I know will be appreciated by most shooters. The pistol grip and forearm are both slightly roughened where the hands want to grip.
The barrel is a thin steel tube surrounded by a fluted synthetic jacket. That’s become a Gamo trademark in recent years. Though I don’t care for the aesthetic, it does keep the weight off.
Surprise at the muzzle!
I casually glanced at the muzzle to examine the crown and was surprised to see no rifling inside the barrel at that point! Using a magnifying hood and a tactical flashlight I can see that the rifling ends considerably before the end of the barrel, like almost an inch deep. So, there really isn’t a crown to this barrel, just what could be called a counterbore at the muzzle. Unlike a true counterbore, the rifling just ends without a step in the barrel. The pellet is free to fly on its own at this point. What it will or won’t do for accuracy remains to be seen, but I’m intrigued!
There are no open sights, nor are there provisions for them. This rifle is meant to be scoped and comes with a Gamo 4×32 scope in rings that are ready to mount. The base clamps to 11mm dovetail grooves cut into the spring tube, and a single vertical scope stop hole is provided. The rings mount with a Torx wrench that’s provided, and both the base screws and cap screws use the same wrench, which is a big plus. The caps have two screws apiece. I had the scope on, leveled and adjusted for my eye relief in less than 10 minutes.
Gamo has been advancing their air rifle technology greatly over the past decade. This year they’ve hit the afterburners! This new rifle looks right, feels right and has a great trigger. Let’s hope it’s also accurate. If so, the Rocket IGT could be a home run for Gamo.
by B.B. Pelletier
A couple weeks back, we talked about straightening bent airgun barrels to improve accuracy. We want to do that so we can hit targets with the sights that were installed. There is, however, another reason for bending barrels. Some guns have sights that do not coincide with where their barrels are pointing, even when they’re not bent. For this situation, we also need a fix.
Many guns have replacement rear sights. I own a BSF S70 breakbarrel rifle that has a Williams peep sight that was either installed by Air Rifle Headquarters (the original company in Grantsville, West Virginia) or was a sight they sold for owners to mount. ARH did inform the customers of the necessity for the rear sight to have a complimentary taller front sight installed, and on my rifle that didn’t happen. I think this was an owner-installed sight that they probably hated ever since.
This is the problem I’m faced with.
The special Williams peep sight is low and fits the rifle well. It looks good, and I want to keep it.
I like the vintage look of the original front sight. Bending the barrel is the only solution!
In either case, the rear sight cannot be adjusted low enough for the rifle to strike the target at 10 meters. Since 10 meters is such a common shooting distance for an air rifle, this is not handy. The other possibility would be to raise the front sight higher, but I don’t want to do that. I happen to like the look of the front sight that’s there and want to leave it as installed. My only option is to bend the barrel.
Several blog readers, including Kevin Lentz, commented on having bent many airgun barrels and how easy it is to do. My buddy Mac has also bent a number of airgun barrels to get them on target.
While a barrel may be bent in any direction, up is by far the most common direction you’ll have to go since the majority of breakbarrel rifles shoot a little low. The second most common direction is down, which is what I need to do to fix the kind of problem I have.
I was in my reading room a few days after that; and from the pile of literature lying on the sink, I picked up the 2000 Edition of The Gun Digest and stumbled across an article by Todd G. Lofgren titled, Sighting In Single-Actions. The author describes, shows and tests the results of bending the barrels of numerous Colt Single Action Army revolvers to get them to shoot to the point of aim at 25 yards. He knew that the traditional way of doing this is to either file down or add to the front sight for height and to bend it (the front sight blade) in the direction opposite of where he wanted the bullet to go, but that didn’t appeal to him. He built a jig and used a 12-1/2 ton hydraulic press to actually bend the barrel in the direction the bullet needed to go.
He fixed guns that were off in all ways, but by far the most common directions were to the left and low. And then he shot three groups at 25 yards to prove the guns now shot to their point of aim. Before bending each barrel, the extractor housing was removed; and in every case, it was installed after the bend without a problem, thus proving that the bend itself was only a very small distance.
Lofgren commented that the first-generation Colt barrels are easier to bend than the barrels of guns made today. That means their metal is softer and more ductile, and lends itself to slight deformation better than barrels made from harder steel. That bodes well for airguns, because they’re also still being made of soft steel that should deform easily.
Lofgren also happened to favor the short 4-3/4 inch barrels, and all of the guns shown in his pictures have barrels of that length. Compared to that, bending a 12-inch or longer air rifle barrel made from thinner steel stock should be a piece of cake!
While he uses a hydraulic press to bend his barrels, I think that bending an air rifle barrel that’s sitting between two blocks 12 inches apart will be easy enough to do with a common screw like the kind found on a C-clamp. If the jig is constructed correctly, it should be possible to control the amount of pressure very precisely, which is desirable for collectors who don’t want to ruin their fine guns.
What about guns with fixed barrels?
It should be possible to bend guns that have fixed barrels, as well, provided the barrels are solid. This process will not work on barrels inside jackets or shrouds, which lets out many airguns of modern design.
Don’t over-think this!
Some readers might think this operation through and wonder if bending the barrel in the direction you want the pellet to move is correct. If you bend the barrel, you also move the front sight — and we know that the front sight is supposed to be moved in the opposite direction that you want to pellet to move. But Lofgren cautions his readers not to over-think this and just bend the barrel as they want the strike of the round to move. It’ll work out perfectly that way.
This fixes bent barrels, too
The initial reason for bending barrels was to straighten them after they’re bent from an accident or from their manufacture — not because they weren’t hitting where the sights are aiming. But one bend is the same as the other. It’ll work for both problems — I guess. At any rate, seeing a man bending the barrels of collectible first-generation Colt revolvers and getting the results he was after has given me the courage to try the same thing on this air rifle.
The next step is to damage a spring-piston barrel and then try to bend it straight again. If I can do that, then bending the S70 barrel shouldn’t prove too difficult. In the process, I hope to construct a simple low-cost barrel-bending fixture that will serve all my future needs. It should be a fun experiment!
by B.B. Pelletier
Isaiah Garrison is this week’s BSOTW.
It’s uncommon for a firearms manufacturer to make an airgun. Many of them put their names on airguns made by someone else, but not many bona fide firearms manufacturers actually produce them.
Even rarer is when an airgun manufacturer makes a firearm. It does happen, but it gives us cause to stop and wonder.
In 1952, Sheridan, the airgun maker from Racine, Wisconsin, began offering the Knocabout single-shot .22 long rifle pistol. When it was first produced, this unique pocket pistol retailed for $17.95 at the same time that the model A Sheridan air rifle was selling for $56.50! What a turnabout that was!
Today’s report was requested by blog reader Robert of Arcade, who has waited patiently for this for several years. As most long-term readers know, Robert is an old-school hunter and trapper from upstate New York. One thing about the Knocabout that must appeal to him is its utility on a trapline for administering the coup de grace to any trapped animal. Of course, that’s not its sole purpose, but it’s one of the big attractions because of the gun’s budget price.
Knocabout is right
Before I continue, let’s get something straight. Knocabout is the correct spelling for this model. I’m aware that it’s not the right spelling of the actual English word. That would be knockabout. But Sheridan must have had their reasons for spelling it differently. And speaking for Pyramyd Air, we have no room to comment.
One of my little strategies for finding Sheridan Knocabouts on gun auction sites is to enter the word both ways. I often find that the seller spells it incorrectly in his caption of a photo of the box lid with the correct spelling!
The Knocabout is made in the most cost-effective way possible for the time, without stepping over the line into cheap. The barrel is a steel casting that also contains some of the features required for the breech. If it were made today, the barrel would be a thin liner pressed into an outer shell; but on the Knocabout, it’s a single, solid piece of steel with several machined areas that serve different functions.
The pistol weighs 1 lb., 7.30 oz. The barrel is 4-3/4 inches long and the overall length is 7 inches.
Two steel side plates contain all the action parts, riveted together into a working assembly. It’s not a very maintainable way to build a gun, but it sure avoids a lot of manufacturing steps. The best part is that it works very well! It’s not a minimal design that barely functions. It’s reliable, consistent and easy to operate.
You’re looking inside the grip frame at the mainspring that drives the hammer.
The pistol is upside-down, and you’re looking at the metal plates that hold everything together. The barrel release and triggerguard are at the right.
The floating firing pin sticks out of the breechblock when the hammer rests against it.. When the safety is applied, it cams the hammer slightly back, allowing the firing pin to be pushed back by its spring. For the sake of safety, you should always apply the safety before opening the gun.
The grip is comprised of two plastic shells that are screwed to the sides of the sheet steel grip frame by two sheetmetal screws in each grip. When they’re removed, you gain somewhat better access into the action for cleaning with cotton swabs, though no other parts can be removed because they’re all retained by the seven rivets that hold the sheetmetal frame halves together.
The hammer is exposed and must be cocked manually. Then, open the breech by flipping the barrel up. Do this by pressing in on the lever sticking through the front of the triggerguard. The safety should be on when you do this. I found it best to load a cartridge, close the breech with the safety still on. Cock the gun and then release the safety when the muzzle is pointed toward the target. The instructions that are printed in the lid of the gun’s box tell you to do it this way.
The trigger-pull is single-stage and releases with 2 lbs. of pressure. There’s very little felt creep, and this trigger rates as a very good one!
The sights are cast and machined into the barrel casting. There’s a crisp, wide rear notch and a thinner front post that stands out clearly against a target with bright light falling on it. They’re non-adjustable, of course, but I admire how finished they appear to the shooter.
I’m sure you want to know how the Knocabout shoots, so I took it to my local gun club and shot it on the 15-yard range. I used a rested two-hand hold and a 6 o’clock sight picture. The targets were 50-foot timed and rapid-fire pistol targets, and I was at 45 feet, so they were ideally sized.
I tried the Sheridan with a lot of different ammo.
I shot the pistol with high-velocity .22 long rifles, standard-speed rounds that are listed as subsonic and two types of CB capsbecause they’re made for guns like this. As an afterthought, I also included some inexpensive Russian standard-speed long rifle ammo that has proved mediocre in some of my other .22s. Who knows if they would somehow shine in this pistol?
This is a single-shot pistol that takes a lot of time to load, so I went with 5-shot groups for this test. I’m not going to show you every target I fired, but I’ll give all the results. I’ll show only the worst group and the best. The first target, however, I mis-counted and shot 6 rounds.
This 6-shot group measures 6.5 inches across — from the outside of the two holes farthest apart. It was shot with CCI CB Longs, a round that did well in my 6-part report on CB caps versus pellets. In the Knocabout, however, it was dead last.
Winchester Super-X high-velocity .22 long rifle rounds made a group that measured 5-3/8 inches across the two widest holes. Aguila Super Colibri made a 5-1/8 inch group. Then, CCI subsonics turned in a group that measured 2-3/8 inches across. That sounded very good in light of what had gone before. But, then, I tried the Russian Junior ammo. Amazingly, they struck the center of the bull and gave a group measuring just 1-7/8 inches across. The pistol really could shoot, after all! I only needed the right ammo.
This group of 5 Russian Junior rounds was astounding after what had gone before. It measures 1-7/8 inches across!
Two other guns
Someone who doesn’t know me might think that I don’t know how to shoot, so I thought I would shoot two other .22 handguns to put these results in perspective. One is a very early Ruger Single-Six with the flat loading gate, and the other is a nondescript Ruger Mark II Target pistol. I didn’t shoot as many different rounds in either of these guns as I did the Knocabout, but I shot enough to show that I can shoot.
This Single-Six is an older one.
Five Winchester Super-X rounds from the Ruger Single-Six made this 2-3/8 inch group that’s well-centered in the bull.
Ruger’s Mark II Target pistol is mundane, but highly accurate.
This target made by the Ruger Mark II with 5 CCI subsonic round measures 15/16 of an inch across the outside.
Compared to what?
I’ve said many nice things about the Knocabout. It probably sounds as though I think it’s almost a free pistol. The truth is, it’s a long way from that. But compared to the other inexpensive single-shot .22 pistols made at the same time, I think the Knocabout might just be the pick of the litter. It’s certainly much better than a Wamo Powermaster; and from what I know from examination but without shooting one, a Savage 101. I know there were a double handful of other cheap single-shots in the ’50s, and I’m going to guess that the Knocabout is probably better than all of them. Of course, what do I know? I haven’t tested any of them. I’m saying that based on what I see in front of me and what I know about Sheridan’s reputation at the time.
With the grips off, you can see what the pistol looks like underneath.
The barrel flips up for loading.
by B.B. Pelletier
We have a guest blog from regular blog reader and commenter Fred DPRoNJ (Democratik Peoples Republic of New Jersey). He’s tested an interesting concept that will be beneficial to all you spring gun shooters. I’ll let him tell you about it.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.
Take it away, Fred!
by Fred DPRoNJ
Spring-powered air rifles are the hardest guns to shoot accurately. At the top of this list are the magnum springers (those that generate 15 or more foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle). Once the trigger is released and the spring propels the piston forward, the rifle shoves back against your shoulder. When the piston stops, its forward motion transfers to the rifle, which then moves forward. This is the jarring motion that turns scopes that are not airgun-rated into castanets. Also, as the spring is uncompressing, a torque is produced which tries to twist the rifle about its longitudinal axis. It’s next to impossible to control these three forces the same way every time and obtain consistency. The pellet will strike the target at a slightly different place than your point of aim.
As long-time readers of this blog know, the trick to wringing out the utmost accuracy from a spring-piston rifle is to use the artillery hold that B.B. Pelletier has popularized. It allows the rifle to recoil as it wants, while achieving consistency in the point of impact. In the artillery hold, the forearm of the rifle rests lightly on your palm or the back of your fingers or top of your closed fist so the rifle can move how it wants. You do not grasp the forearm with your fingers. That technique is explained here.
However, additional accuracy can sometimes be obtained by positioning your hand under a different point on the forearm. There’s no tried-and-true position since each rifle has its own characteristics, and that requires experimentation. I thought I had the most accurate hold for my .177 Diana RWS 350 Magnum, which is the hardest recoiling and one of the most powerful spring-piston air rifles in my collection. Its recoil makes it one of the hardest rifles to shoot accurately. But I wondered if varying my hand position might improve the results. And that’s the subject of my report.
What I did
I marked the forearm of my rifle in four positions, shot a number of different pellets at a target, rested the rifle at each of the four points and then measured the groups. Distance to the target was 28 feet — the maximum limit of my basement target range. The rifle has an optional peep sight — the Beeman version of the Williams model 64 receiver peep sight – and a hooded front.
I quickly found out that my arm was too short for the farthest position, which would have been at the end of the forearm, so the experiment was revised to three positions.
Even position one (shown above) was too far out for me to comfortably hold the rifle, and that probably contributed to the poor results obtained in that position. The rifle was rested on the top of a closed hand (the top of my fist), with my elbow rested on a flat surface. The rifle did tend to move with the movement of my body, hand and arm. [Editor's note: The rifle will always follow the body. That's why the stance is so important for an offhand shooter...and a baseball pitcher.] I’m afraid these aren’t one-hole groups.
My first pellet was the Air Arms Falcon domed pellets that weighs 7.33 grains. The smallest group I got with all but one pellet was with my off hand in position three, which is closest to the triggerguard. For the Falcon pellets, that group measured 0.6355 inches between centers. Positions one and two resulted in groups that were larger than one inch across.
The first three groups were shot using Falcon pellets. They’re arranged in this way — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. Position three gave the tightest group.
At this point, I’d like to apologize for the wrinkled targets. Spike, my pet cockatiel, overturned a glass of water and soaked all the paper targets prior to my taking photos of them. He was sternly spoken to and told to straighten up and fly right.
Spike posed for this picture, but he tipped the glass on the targets before I could photograph them. As you can see from the look on his face, he has a mischievous streak and he won’t allow me to photograph him when he’s misbehaving! His favorite TV sitcom character is Eddie Haskell.
Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum
Next up were 10.5-grain Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum pellets, and, once again, the smallest size obtained was position three — 0.698 inches between centers. As you can see, positions one and two produced groups in excess of one inch, total spread.
Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum, 10.5 grains. Once again they’re arranged — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. Position three gave the tightest group.
RWS Super H-point
The third pellet I used was the RWS Super-H-Point weighing in at 6.9 grains. The rifle didn’t like these at all. This target produced the only anomaly of the entire test – position one had the tightest group of 1.198 inches between centers, while position three was 0.125 inches larger. Perhaps, this could just be a measurement discrepancy?
The RWS Super-H-Point target was the one anomalous target in the test. They’re arranged — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. In this case, position one beat position three.
My next pellet was the 10.65-grain H&N Baracuda Match pellet. Once again, the third position produced the smallest group of 0.698 inches between centers.
Finally, with the H&N pellet, I was starting to get some decent results. Again, they’re arranged — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. Position three gave the tightest group.
JSB Exact 8.4-grain dome
The JSB Exact 8.4-grain dome produced a grouping that was equal for positions two and three, with position one being roughly one inch across.
JSB Exact 10.3-grain dome
My last pellet was the JSB Exact 10.3-grain domed pellet. This pellet was the most accurate of the test with a best group of 0.573 inches between centers, which was almost a one-hole group.
What I can deduce from my testing is that position of the hand on the forearm certainly affects accuracy. With one exception, the groupings did get tighter as my hand position was moved in from position one to position three. Position three was nearly always the best place to rest the rifle on my hand, irrespective of the pellet used.
[Editor's note: Fred's findings correspond with my own. Placing the off hand back by the triggerguard is nearly always the best place for a spring rifle. There have been exceptions, however, so it's good to test all positions with every rifle.]
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is accuracy day for the 327 TRR8 BB revolver, and there’s an additional surprise in this report. I was glad to get another chance to shoot this interesting BB revolver that feels so good in my hands. It actually has made me curious about the .357 Magnum firearm. Ain’t that always the way?
I inserted a fresh CO2 cartridge for this session, and we know from the velocity test that there are at least 65 good shots from a cartridge. I’m talking about the best part of the power band, where no excuses for accuracy can be made. So, I could conceivably fire 10 cylinders (60 shots) and be safe. As it turned out, I didn’t even need to shoot that many.
Before the cartridge went in for piercing, it got a couple drops of Crosman Pellgunoil on the small, flat end. That ensures some of the oil will be blown through the firing valve, where trace oil will coat every surface, including all seals and valve seats. I want this gun to hold gas forever, and this is cheap insurance!
I used Daisy zinc-plated BBs, which have proven to be the most accurate steel BBs I’ve found. I was recently surprised to learn that Daisy imports these BBs from China in 55-gallon steel drums, but I do know that they then put every BB through a sorting process here in the U.S. before packaging. Whatever they’re doing is working, because these are the most accurate standard steel BBs I’ve seen. Only the Avanti Precision Ground Shot is more accurate — and you’ll probably only see the difference in a precision target gun like the Avanti Champion 499.
I shot the gun at 5 meters, which is the international distance for BB gun competition. I used a rested two-hand hold with my forearms resting on a sandbag. I don’t believe I can hold the gun any better than I held it for this test.
I had said earlier that I thought I’d be using the bright green fiberoptic sight for this test. This revolver has some of the brightest sights I’ve ever seen. But when I lit the target with the 500-watt lamp, I found that I had to use the conventional sight picture of the front post level with the rear notch and lined up at 6 o’clock on the black bull. The bright light on the target made the fiberoptic tubes of the front post and rear notch go black. It was as if this was a conventional set of sights. The sights were crisper than I originally thought when the target was lit this brightly, so everything worked out quite well.
The first group was shot single-action, which proved to be the most accurate way of shooting this revolver, as expected. I was so close to the target that I saw the first shot rip through the black bull. After that, I fell into a rythym and didn’t check the target again. I shot 12-shot groups, since the cylinder holds six loaded cartridges. When all 12 shots were fired, I checked the target through binoculars and couldn’t believe my eyes! It really appeared as if only 6 shots had been fired, because nine BBs all went into a single tiny hole. I doubt very much that I could repeat such a grouop if I tried 100 more times.
The first group was phenomenal! It appears that 9 of the 12 shots went into the tiny group at the lower right, though the hole just above it may have more than one shot. Entire group measures 0.685 inches between centers.
With the success of the first group under my belt, I thought it prudent to shoot a second group single-action, just in case the first one was a fluke. As it turned out, it was. But I could see this group as it formed, and it looked better than the first one from the firing line. I wasn’t until I examined it in the binoculars that the whole story became obvious.
The larger hole in the center of the bull was visible from the firing line as I shot, but the holes that aren’t in the main group were hidden until I looked through binoculars. This is a more representative 12-shot group and measures 0.858 inches between centers.
I’m satisfied that the 327 TRR8 is an accurate BB gun. I was very relieved that the fiberoptics didn’t have to be used, because look at the precision I got. Combat sights (fiberoptics) aren’t ever going to give you that kind of group.
Next, it was time to try my hand at double-action shooting. This is more difficult, because the longer, heavy trigger-pull causes the gun to move in the hand as the trigger is pulled.
The first 6 shots went so well that I thought I’d be recanting my position on double-action shooting, but the first shot from the second cylinder fired before I was ready and as a result it went wide. It was a called flier that I could see because I was concentrating on the front sight so intently.
The rest of the shots went into a fairly nice group, except that there was one high shot that I cannot account for. But when you’re pulling a double-action trigger and the gun shifts by just a few degrees of angle, it’s enough to throw you off target.
I used the quick-loading procedure that was reported in Part 2 of this report. That’s where you press the mouths of the 6 shells into a layer of BBs, and they all pop into the cartridges. While doing this, I noticed one time that two of the BBs had not popped into their cartridge all the way. That would cause them to have less friction than the other four BBs and that could cause a variation. In handloading firearm ammunition, it would be called neck tension — and it’s a vital component of accuracy.
This is what happened when the cartridges were not pressed down evenly on the layer of BBs. Two BBs are sticking out the top of the cartridges and will have less friction than the other four that are deeper. When they were pushed into the cartridge, a noticeable pop was felt.
The bottom line
This completes the test of the S&W 327 TRR8 BB revolver. We’ve seen how it works and all of its good features. It is a very well-made BB gun that looks like it will give good service for a long time. Accuracy is above average, and the power is well above the modest advertised velocity.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report was requested by blog reader NotRocketSurgery. He’s been watching the NSSF videos on You Tube about shooting in the Olympics, and the subject of dry-firing comes up repeatedly. He wanted to know why. I’ll address this subject with enthusiasm, because this is something with which I actually have some experience.
Have you ever watched the Olympics and seen a slalom racer standing at the top of the course with his or her eyes closed, swaying as they envision running the course? We might have made fun of such behavior in the 1960s, but today we know that’s what all the winners do. They’re conditioning their minds to respond correctly to the course ahead of them.
Dry-firing a gun is like that, but it’s more than a century older. We don’t close our eyes, nor do we sway about, so onlookers don’t have quite as much to comment on. When we shoot our guns without discharging a shot (dry-firing), we’re conditioning our brains and many muscles to work together.
I don’t suppose there’s a machine the downhill skiers can get on to simulate the experience of skiing while standing still, but all world-class target air rifles and air pistols do have a dry-fire mechanism built in. To not have one automatically eliminates the gun from serious consideration.
Top target shooters spend much more time dry-firing their airguns than they do shooting pellets. How much more differs from shooter to shooter, but I’ve heard one Olympic air pistol shooter say the number is five times as much. So, for every shot that makes a hole in paper, the shooter has also fired five more shots without discharging the gun. And it’s very common for a world-class shooter to shoot a full match every day, which would be 60 shots for a man or 40 for a woman. And five times that much dry-firing.
How do you dry-fire a gun?
You don’t just pick up the airgun and start shooting. Practice in the dry-fire mode must be identical to shooting a match, though a target doesn’t have to be in a bullet trap or even the correct distance from the shooter, since it’s all a simulation. I am going to describe this from an air pistol shooter’s perspective, but what I say applies equally to air rifle shooters. The moves are just different.
For those who are interested, I wrote an extensive blog on the subject of shooting a 10-meter target pistol. Part 3 demonstrates raising the pistol and sighting. You do it this way with both live-fire and dry-fire.
When you dry-fire, you first go through all the motions of raising the pistol and settling on the target. That is not a random movement! The gun is held on the shooting table in front of the shooter in a certain and repeatable way, and is raised to the same height each time. Some shooters like to raise the sights above the bull and then settle back down until the sights are aligned with it. Others like to raise the gun until the sights come in line with the bull on the way up and go no higher. Each shooter has a preference; but whatever it is, they always do it the same way.
Once the sights are on target, the shooter has up to about five seconds to get the shot off. Much longer and the gun will start to wander more than a little, so timing is very important. An amateur might hold out for the perfect sight picture for twice as long as a world-class shooter, but you’ll see the top shooters lower their guns if they don’t get the shot off within the time limit.
Many shooters, including me, take up the slack of the trigger’s first-stage pull as the gun is settling into position. To someone who is not trained, this sounds dangerous, and it actually is — because their guns will go off at a time that is not entirely of their choosing. But a top competitor knows exactly where the trigger releases, and they can wait until the sights are perfectly aligned before applying the final few grams of pressure that cause the sear to release.
When the sear releases, the shooter continues to aim at the target, noting where the sights are. With some practice they learn to call their shots — which means they know exactly where each pellet went without seeing the hole it made in the target. This is something you can read about and never understand. As you train, it comes to you all at once. And when that happens, you never forget it. You’ll be able to call your shots from that point on.
After the shooter has called the shot (to himself), the gun is lowered to the shooting table, reloaded and the cycle begins again. There are 90 seconds for every shot in a formal match. It sounds like a rush, but it’s actually more than enough time for a well-trained shooter. You don’t lower the gun without taking a shot more than a handful of times in a match, if that much, so time is never your enemy unless you have an equipment problem. I never thought about the time remaining in a match. What I concentrated on was how many pellets remained in my pellet tray, because that told me where I was in the match.
The dry-fire mechanism
I told you that all world-class airguns have a dry-fire mechanism, but now I’ll tell you that some are better than others. Most of them have some sort of switch that is set one way for live fire and another way for dry fire. The guns that have that usually have a very realistic trigger-pull in the dry-fire mode.
I shoot a SAM M10 that was made through cooperation between Anschütz and Caesare Morini. I’ve never shot a full formal match with it; but back in the late 1990s, I did shoot it for the record several times. That was when I was shooting at my peak, so I noticed things more acutely than I do today. I found the trigger to be very nice, though by that time I’d tested enough FWBs, Steyrs and Walthers to know what a world-class trigger should feel like. The M10 has a good trigger, but it’s not as nice as an FWB P34 trigger, which was the last FWB target pistol I tested.
The dry-fire mechanism on the SAM 10 is a lever on the right side of the action. Pull is straight back and the trigger is cocked, but the hammer isn’t. When you pull the trigger, it releases the sear without releasing the hammer to strike the firing valve — hence the dry-fire. Those who own a gun with double-set triggers know the feeling of the set trigger breaking is not the same as the feeling of the gun actually firing. With an airgun, which doesn’t recoil or make a lot of noise when it fires, this feeling is much more noticeable.
On the SAM 10 target pistol, the dry-fire lever at the top of the receiver is pulled back each time to cock the trigger. You can feel the sear release when the trigger is pulled; but since the hammer was not cocked, it doesn’t strike the valve and no air is exhausted.
As nice as the M10 trigger is, the dry-fire device isn’t as nice as the FWB or Steyr dry-fire devices. Both of those guns feel as though the hammer is dropped when they fire in the dry-fire mode.
Other 10-meter guns have to resort to a gimmick of some kind to get into the dry-fire mode. The IZH 46M, for example, requires the shooter to actually cock the trigger by pulling the breech up, then locking it back down. By omitting the pump stroke, there’s no compressed air in the gun. When it fires, there’s nothing to release. The effect is the same, but a little more work is needed for each dry-fire shot.
Other guns require the shooter to unscrew the compressed-air tank part way. They can be cocked and fired and the hammer will fall, but there’s no air in the firing valve because the compressed-air reservoir has been disconnected.
What benefit does dry-firing provide?
Hold on to your hats, apartment dwellers! Dry-firing allows you to train in a tiny apartment without making any noise or having to stop any lead pellets. Do people really do that? You bet they do! Dry-firing can get you ready for a match just as well as shooting live ammo. It’s probably good to shoot a few pellets from time to time; but if you can’t, there will be at least a chance to shoot them when you sight-in before the match.
Another benefit of the dry-fire mechanism is that the trigger can be cocked for testing before a match without firing the gun. The trigger on every air pistol must pass a minimum 500-gram weight test before it can be permitted in a match.
But the biggest benefit of dry-firing is the practice it affords. When you do the same thing thousands of times in repetition, your muscles and nervous system become synchronized to a degree you must experience to understand. That’s why competitive shooters can release the sear at the exact instant they desire.
Follow-through is the name of the game
You’ve read the phrase “follow-through” many times. What does it mean, and why do we talk about it so much? Follow-through is when the shooter continues to watch the target through the sights after the shot’s been fired. If the gun is gentle enough, like an airgun or a rimfire, then follow-through lets the shooter see where the sights were in relation to the target at the instant of firing.
Follow-through is at the root of dry-firing. We dry-fire to train ourselves to follow-through; and it’s follow-through — and all that it entails — that makes a better shooter. Dry-firing the gun many times is what reinforces follow-through in a shooter.