Archive for August 2012
by B.B. Pelletier
I’m going to Leapers today through the end of the week to research an article for Shotgun News and also for this blog. I’ll ask the veteran readers to help those new readers who have questions, because I won’t be able to read my mail except for a brief time in the morning. On to today’s report.
I always enjoy hearing from new airgunners, because their questions remind me that we haven’t covered every subject yet. And we probably never will. Some subjects we have covered several times and still people are asking questions.
But it’s extremely difficult to write about a subject that nobody will ever bring up. Hence, today’s report.
I had a table at a gun show last weekend with a friend whom I happen to know goes ga-ga over all lever-action rifles. Another gunsmith acquaintance of mine stopped by my table and dropped off his Winchester 94 angle eject that he had refinished with fire-blued screws and had re-casehardened the lever, hammer and trigger. It was a strikingly beautiful gun; and because it’s an angle-eject model, you can mount a scope directly on top of the action. Most Winchester 94s have to have their scopes offset to the left because they eject the empties straight up and back, but this rifle comes from the factory pre-drilled for scope rings directly on top of the receiver.
Now, Lever Man’s wife is sitting in the booth with him, and she also likes the look of the pretty Winchester. In fact, she asks him to buy it — first for himself; and when he refused, for her! Then she recounted the litany of reasons why he should buy the gun. First, they both hunt hogs, and he’s missed several with his open-sighted 94. This one can take a scope mounted in the right place. Second, this rifle is beautiful! Doesn’t he want it on that basis, alone? Third, once he acquires this rifle, he can sell his other 94 or give it to her. She really wants a 94 of her own. I mean, come on, boys — short of a wifely directive, that’s about as good an offer as you’re likely to get!
But he says no. You can look in his eyes and see a big old, “Yes,” but he has programmed himself to say, “No” so many times that the programming overrides rationality. I know this scene must make our UK cousins tear their hair out in anguish!
Okay, so you guys are probably guessing that cash is the problem, but it isn’t. Lever Man has just put a Benjamin, a Grant and several Jeffersons in his pocket (for our friends outside the U.S. that’s about $200). And he knows where he can get the rest. The pretty rifle has an asking price of $450, which is reasonable. Money isn’t holding him back. What holds him back is plain old inertia. The resistance of a body at rest that won’t move unless acted upon by an overwhelming outside force. To put it plainly, he doesn’t like to make deals because he isn’t exactly sure of himself.
I’m a casual observer to this drama, which is to say, a first-class facilitator. Veteran readers of this blog know I’m being honest about this. I’m trying to get the deal done, simply because I know that all parties want to do it. I comment to my other gun buddy that this really needs to happen and he agrees, but he also knows that Lever Man moves like a glacier. The odd thing is that Lever Man is here at this gun show to watch me and my gun buddy wheel and deal! He wants to get involved in gun trading like us.
How bad can it be?
Let me tell you exactly how bad. At another gun show two weeks earlier, the three of us were cruising the aisles and Lever Man picks up a Weaver K10-T, which is a vintage steel El Paso-made Weaver target scope in perfect working condition. It has a price of $25 on the tag, which is about $100 less than what it is worth. Lever Man is standing in the aisle like a chained elephant, rocking back and forth and lamenting over the fact that he isn’t going to buy this scope! Not that he can’t buy it, mind you — that he ISN’T going to buy it. That’s a big difference. He knows he should and he knows the deal is good; he just won’t pull the trigger. This is IN SPITE of the fact that he just sold two other vintage scopes of far less value two weeks earlier at another gun show, and he knows very well what this one is worth.
He puts it down and says to me, “I’m not going to buy that, but I probably should — huh?”
Well, I couldn’t let it pass, so I bought it — not out from under him, but because he wasn’t going to act on a great buy, and I wasn’t going to let it get away. Sometimes, I do find good deals on my own; but when they walk up and jump in my lap like this, I’m embarrassed by how easy it is. Lever Man should have made the deal. Then he could have sold the scope for $100 (still a great price) at the next show and been that much closer to the pretty Winchester lever-action we both know he’ll eventually own.
It just so happens that Edith was also present when all this happened and she was witness to everything, so you can ask her how it went. I bought that scope simply because it was too good a deal to pass up.
Why aren’t they pulling the trigger?
I understand having trepidation about making a deal because…what if you’re wrong? Speaking as someone who has been really wrong at times, I can tell you that it doesn’t hurt you permanently and even makes you a little wiser in the end. Someday, maybe I’ll share several of my own bonehead deals, so you can see just how screwed up someone can be. For now, you’ll have to trust me: We all make mistakes. But not acting when there’s a great deal to be made is a very big mistake, and it’s potentially preventing some people from ever enjoying this hobby as much as they could.
Begin with experience
It costs noting to get smart on your hobby. You do that right here on the internet, doing the things you’re already doing, only in a more calculated way. As an example, what if you were to go to a garage sale this weekend and see a Crosman 160 that looks like the one I’ve been reviewing for you? You would know that it’s potentially a very nice air rifle — no? But there is also a lot that you wouldn’t know.
You wouldn’t know if it still holds CO2 by just looking at it. You wouldn’t know if the barrel is a good one, though a bore light would reveal the condition of the rifling. And there could always be a problem somewhere down deep in the mechanism that might slip past a cursory examination. BUT — what if the asking price was only $20? That would leave enough money in the budget for a rebuild and some repairs and you could still sell the gun for — ??? Well, how much is it worth, anyway? You probably don’t know, because I didn’t tell you.
Believe it or not, you already have enough information to buy a gun like that and make money, three times out of four. And the fourth time? Well, that’s where experience comes in. You spent $20 for a lesson on the Crosman 160. If you keep at it and buy the next 160 you see, you’ll soon be very proficient in not only Crosman 160s, but also 180s, as well. And you’ll own some classic airguns in the process.
What NOT to do
Whatever you do, don’t stuff money in your pocket and go out looking for bargains like this. That is a sure way to lose! Instead, tuck that money into a hidden compartment in your wallet; and when you stumble across a real bargain, it’ll jump out and grab you by the collar! That’s the bargain to act upon!
Don’t be picky
Some of you are thinking, “I don’t like guns like the Crosman 160. I would never buy one, no matter how cheap it was.” If that’s you, sir, you’re missing out on how this thing works.
I personally dislike shotguns with prejudice. I own a few, but they leave me cold. And I’m the world’s worst shotgunner, so there’s a reason to feel as I do. But if a Belgian-made Browning Auto-5 in perfect condition walked up to me at a gun show and the guy told me he really needed $400 for it, I would hand the gun to a shotgunning buddy for his opinion. If it was good, I would buy that gun, then resell it (probably at the same gun show) at a $200-300 profit. How much I made would be determined by how long I cared to own the Browning.
I use this example because this exact thing happened to me at a gun show a couple years ago. I didn’t have the cash to act, but I certainly would have if I could have.
The final example
A week ago, I met a fellow at the local Cabela’s parking lot to look at an original plains rifle he wanted to sell. I really wanted the gun and agreed to a price as long as it was consistent with the photos he’d sent me. Well, it wasn’t. He failed to show me some severe eroding around the nipple that made the gun unsafe to shoot, in my opinion. When we disassembled the gun for a better look at the breech, we both discovered that the hammer and trigger were connected by a field repair of what looked like a crushed brass cartridge case. I don’t think he was trying to scam me — he honestly didn’t know that much about black powder guns. So, I had to pass on the gun.
Since I was at Cabela’s anyway, I went inside. They had just acquired several dozen fine vintage firearms from an estate, and these were on display. I looked at scores of fine vintage rifles like a pair of Remington 14-1/2 slide-action repeaters in 44-40 caliber that are as scarce as hen’s teeth. There were four Farquharson rifles, including one that was priced at only $299. In all, I must have looked at 50 fine vintage rifles — all of them desirable and priced well. Yet, in the end, I walked out of the store with no purchase.
I was with a buddy who did want one of the estate guns, though, so we went back inside and took it into their salon to examine it more closely. The salon is where the guns that are usually priced at $1,000 and up are kept behind glass. That was where I noticed that the barrel on the rifle he was interested in had been relined, which killed the deal. But while he was chatting with the salesman, I wandered around the room looking at the guns I could never afford. That was when I spotted a beautiful Winchester High Wall with a scope in .218 Mashburn Bee caliber. I knew my buddy liked that caliber, so I dragged him over for a look because the price was $800, which is not a small amount, but considering what it is, it was a wonderful price.
He looked at the rifle, and it was gorgeous…but he hesitated at the last minute, so I delivered the classic enabling line, “If you don’t buy this gun, I will. It’s too nice to pass up.” Well, he called me on it and said he thought that was exactly what I should do. So I did.
Very long story short: When we got home, I discovered that this rifle has a single-set trigger. A couple days later, we discovered the caliber is not .218 Mashburn Bee; it’s .219 Zipper Improved. And it was made by the Mashburn Arms Co., so Mashburn, himself, or his son, made this rifle.
This custom Winchester High Wall literally jumped into my truck and followed me home! It was a no-brainer good investment. That’s my new $25 Weaver K10-T scope on top, by the way.
The first five rounds we shot last week went into a 0.392-inch group at 50 yards! We don’t even know what loads the gun likes, and it’s already shooting this well!
The first five-shot group at 50 yards tells me this rifle wants to shoot! It measures 0.392 inches between centers. I don’t even know the load for this rifle yet.
Anytime I care to (and I definitely don’t — believe me), I can double my money on this gun. It literally jumped into my lap, and there was absolutely zero risk to me because of what it is.
That is today’s lesson. Learn about the things you intend to deal on. Then, when a deal comes your way, act on it. If this has helped even one of you get off the dime and start dealing in airguns, I’ve succeeded.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll test my Beeman R1 air rifle for velocity, plus show you the differences between the standard Rekord trigger and the special match Rekord trigger. Before I get to the velocity figures, however, let me give you a brief history of some of the many tunes that have been in this gun.
After 1,000 shots were on this rifle, it was shooting Crosman Premiers at an average 770 f.p.s. The rifle took 46 lbs. of effort to cock and shot with a little buzziness, indicating the powerplant had some looseness.
Following that test, the rifle went through a series of tunes that are way too numerous to cover here. One that’s of interest was the Beeman Laserization that was so popular in the 1980s and early ’90s. Beeman would do this tune for a price, or you could buy all the parts and do it yourself. I elected to do the latter.
The Laser seal came way oversized and had to be reduced to fit the particular gun in which it was installed. That was thought to be a superior way of tuning in those days, though today I see generic seals that work just as well without all the fuss.
I had a problem fitting the first seal, and it burned on one edge from excessive friction. I got a replacement and sized it a bit looser. You never want to lube a Lazerized rifle, as the special Beeman Laser Lube is the best stuff for friction. This lube is no longer sold. If you have a worn-out Laser seal, just about any modern generic seal can replace it with no loss of energy.
The Laser spring was weaker than the factory spring, making the rifle easier to cock. After I applied the tune and broke it in a little, my rifle averaged 765 f.p.s. with Crosman Premiers. Cocking effort was 37 lbs., which is an 11-lb. reduction for almost the same power. That’s significant!
The one thing I didn’t like about Laserization was the fact that the gun vibrated a lot more than before. That Laser spring fit the piston and guide so loosely that the only way to quiet the gun was to use Mainspring Dampening Compound on the mainspring — which subtracted velocity at the same time.
The absolute best tune I ever applied to the R1 was a Mag80 Laza Tune I got from from Ivan Hancock. It was a drop-in tune that included a buttoned piston and a long mainspring that came coated with something I called black tar in print the first time I wrote about it. After that, the airgun community seized on the term, and black tar became a product — though nothing that was ever sold separately was as viscous as the stuff on that Venom spring.
This tune took the R1 up over 22 foot-pounds with absolute zero vibration. It was so smooth I thought it had actually lost power. But the 50-pound cocking effort reminded me that the big spring was doing its thing. For reference, Crosman Premiers averaged 809 f.p.s. with this tune.
Unfortunately that spring was included in my Mainspring Failure Test, that left four different tunes cocked for one month to see the effects. The spring finally canted and was never as smooth afterward!
I also tested a gas spring made by Vortek. It was smooth and did make better than 20 foot-pounds with certain pellets, but it also took 50 pounds of effort to cock, so I have since removed it from the rifle. The gas spring put Premier pellets out the muzzle at around 790-795 f.p.s.
The tune that’s in the rifle now is a weak mainspring and a generic piston seal. Everything is moly-ed and I have used a touch of Black Tar on the mainspring to calm it down. Today we will all see what velocity the rifle currently develops with this tune, which can be researched in its entirety in the 13-part report titled Spring Gun Tune.
The first pellet I tested was that old standard — the Crosman Premier. I have given you the velocities for this pellet at various stages of the rifle’s life, so you can compare them to how it’s doing now. With the current tune the rifle shoots Premiers an average 743 f.p.s. The range runs from a low of 738 f.p.s. to a high of 751 f.p.s., so an extreme spread of 13 f.p.s. Given the pellet’s average 14.3-grain weight, the rifle produces 17.53 foot-pounds at the muzzle with Premiers. I noticed they fit the breech on the loose side, but were still what I would consider a good fit.
The rifle now cocks with just 33 pounds of effort, which is where I like it. It weighs 11 pounds on the nose, and you have to allow a little over one of those pounds for that big Bushnell Trophy 6-16 scope and mounts.
Next I tried RWS Superdomes, another domed pellet like the Premier but made of pure lead and just slightly heavier, at 14.5 grains. These averaged 742 f.p.s. in the test rifle and ranged from a low of 733 to a high of 748 f.p.s. So a 15 foot-second spread. At the average velocity this pellet produces 17.73 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The fit was loose in the breech.
Then I tried the heavier 15.43-grain Gamo Hunter. This dome fit the breech loose but also varied a lot in the seating pressure required, which indicates variability in the size. They averaged 706 f.p.s. and ranged from 700 to 710 f.p.s., which is a tight spread of just 10 f.p.s. At the average velocity these pellets produced 17.08 foot-pounds of energy.
The final pellet I tested was the 15.9-grain JSB Exact dome. These averaged 696 f.p.s. and ranged from 693 to 701 f.p.s., so the spread was just 8 f.p.s. — the tightest of the test. The fit of this pellet was loose in the breech. At the average velocity this pellet produced 17.11 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
I mentioned that the trigger in the R1 is a standard Rekord, and when I reported on the HW55 target rifles, I had mentioned that they all have special match Rekord triggers. Weihraiuch now calls all of their Rekord triggers match triggers, but back when the 55 was still being offered they differentiated between the trigger in that gun, which they called a match trigger and the one they used in every other sporting rifle. The latter was just called a Rekord.
This is the standard Rekord trigger that’s on my R1. Paul Watts gave me the smooth trigger blade to replace the Weihrauch grooved blade that comes on the trigger, but otherwise the trigger unit is stock. I have adjusted and lubricated it, of course.
The match trigger also has no provisions for a safety, in contrast to the standard Rekord. Target guns are seldom provided with safeties, as their shooters are expected to be cognizant of safe shooting at all times.
The match Rekord has an aluminum collar around the trigger adjustment screw that is used to lock the screw after adjustment. This collar is turned by hand-pressure, only, so it is knurled on the outside to provide a better grip. Let’s sample the R1 trigger against an HW55-CM trigger and see how they differ in use.
The R1 trigger breaks cleanly at 1 pound 1 ounce — a little lighter than the recommended 1 pound 8 ounces that the Beeman instructions used to recommend. You have to remember that I have shot this rifle extensively since it was new and I have worked on the trigger, as well.
The match Rekord in my HW55 CM breaks at 7 ounces, or just less than half of where the standard Rekord goes off. It is considered very safe at this low pressure setting, because of both the design of the Rekord and that fact that a target shooter will be handling the rifle.
The two Rekord triggers are dimensionally the same. The proof of that is my HW55 SF that is an HW50 with this trigger instead of the normal Rekord that’s found on the HW50s. Back when the 55SF was made, the HW 50 was a different model than today, but the same gun could accept either trigger.
Should you swap your trigger?
The question that always comes up when I tell people about these two triggers is why not just adjust a standard Rekord to have a pull weight equal to the match trigger? The answer is the match trigger isn’t designed to hold back pistons that are compressing powerful mainsprings like those found in an R1 — or even in lesser sporting rifles. And, if you were to install a match trigger in a sporting rifle, you would be doing the same thing. So leave the trigger that came with the gun where it is and be safe.
That’s it for today. Next we will look at the accuracy potential of this rifle.
by B.B. Pelletier
Adil Maroof is this week’s BSOTW.
Today’s report isn’t about airguns, per se. It’s about circumstances and the things that surround the guns that often determine their value down the road. This subject is one I’ve been thinking about for more than 40 years, and I have had some pretty strong arguments with collectors, so let’s see what you think.
Back in the early 1970s, I had a chance to buy two Winchester commemorative rifles. They were both model 94 Centennial 66 commemoratives. I bought them to hopefully make a little money; but when I put them out at gun shows, I discovered they were not at all desirable. Too many of the same gun had been made, and they were very easy to acquire. Nobody wanted them. Collectors didn’t want them because they had no real collector value — and never would — because of how many were sold. And shooters didn’t want them because, if they ever fired a shot through them, they would lose all their (non-existent) value.
How they were sold was what caused the problem. These rifles were made in huge numbers and sold to virtually anyone who wanted one. There was no cachet — no “specialness” to the model that made them desirable. Because they were called commemoratives, the moment one was fired, it lost any value it might every get. The only way to make anything on one of these rifles was to buy it and never open the box. Then, in 40-50 years, it might bring a small premium, though it’s doubtful that even that would be enough to offset inflation of the same money held for the same period of time.
Are all commemoratives in the same boat? Not at all. Some were issued in very limited quantities, and that fact is known by everyone who collects. Those guns do command a premium. But you have to know which ones are valuable going in…or you have to be very lucky.
Let me contrast that high-volume commemorative with the Pederson device of World War I. Military planners wanted a way to turn the U.S. service rifle into a semiautomatic rifle that put out a high volume of fire in a short time. The thinking was that all the soldiers would emerge from the trenches with their rifles at their hips, firing bullets as fast as their fingers could work the triggers. The enemy would be overwhelmed with the high volume of incoming fire and keep their heads down, allowing our soldiers to gain ground on the battlefield.
Irwin Pederson invented a .30-caliber semiautomatic pistol insert for the Springfield rifle that allowed soldiers to convert the rifle to a semiautomatic in seconds. It fired .30-caliber pistol bullets that traveled at a very high speed, and it carried 40 rounds in a stick magazine. It was a wonderful idea except — (A) Nobody asked the soldiers what they thought, and — (B) It came too late in the war to be used. The government shrouded the project in secrecy; and at the end of the war, they ordered all Pederson devices destroyed. There are only a few still in existence. If you own one, you can pretty well name your price.
The lesson is that commemoratives that were made to be commemoratives may not be such a good idea, but accidents like the Pederson device are sure things.
Sometimes, though, things run counter to the norm. I once bought a Daisy 1894 Texas Rangers commemorative BB gun in the original box for $80. The box was in poor condition, but all the original literature came with it and the gun inside seemed to be unfired. I certainly never cocked it! The lucky part of the story is that of all Daisy 1894 BB guns, this one is the most desirable. I sold the gun for $500 two months after buying it, and the man who bought it still got a good deal. But I could just as easily have bought a different Daisy 1894 commemorative that might not have made any money at all. In my case, it was a pure gamble; but if I’d checked in the Blue Book of Airguns before buying, it would have been a shrewd purchase.
Let me give you a case where the line is not so clear. The Daisy commemorative No. 25 pump gun was issued in 1986. It came in a nice box, and the gun was made intentionally to look like the earlier No. 25 pump guns — the ones made before 1930. Daisy made a bucketload of them; but because the No. 25 is regarded so highly, they have increased in value over time.
The Daisy Christmas Story Red Ryder is another example of a special commemorative gun that defied logic and is now extremely collectible. The BB gun that never existed (author Jean Shepard mistakenly wrote that the Daisy Red Ryder had a compass in the stock and a sundial), became the most famous Daisy never made. They’ve even reissued another one in 2003 to mark the 20th anniversary of the first one. All signs point to that gun being a good one, too.
When Al Biesen made rifles, they appreciated in value with each passing year. But that doesn’t always hold true. Al Biesen is renowned and had a 50-year history of making fine guns.
When Snuffy Smith, airgun maker extraordinaire and a legend in his own mind, makes a “special” model, it will probably not gain value as time passes. Why? Because nobody ever heard of him, outside his own world of 200 internet admirers. If you back up a few feet, you’ll see that every gun Snuffy makes is different because he’s still learning his craft as he goes. He’s not an Al Biesen, no matter what he thinks. Buying a gun from Snuffy is a financial risk.
There’s an old saying in the federal government: “Nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM.” The gist of the saying is that things that everyone knows and appreciates are always good, no matter what your personal tastes might be.
That said, an HW55 will always be a gun to invest in, and a 55 Tyrolean will be the absolute top in the category. Of course, condition means a lot, and I’ll address that in a moment, but you still must have the right model to begin with.
You and I may disagree on the styles we like, but we both have to acknowledge that HW55s and TX200s hold their value. HW55s are now gaining in value because they aren’t made anymore. If TX200s stop, there will be a rush on them, as well.
But a gun that is standard cannot be transformed into a collectible by a new finish and the hopes of a retailer. There are plenty of commemorative and special-issue airguns whose values have not increased, in spite of all the good things said about them. For example, just because a Beeman R1 is nickel-plated, people won’t necessarily assign a greater value to it.
Finish and condition
Condition is everything! When I started out collecting airguns, I thought that it was good enough to just get a certain model, if it was one that everyone wanted. If I got a Sheridan Supergrade, I was happy until a real collector pointed out that the sight wasn’t right and the gun had been refinished. By the time they were done picking apart my gun, I knew I had just an expensive shooter and nothing more. And a sow’s ear today will still be a sow’s ear 10 years from now.
While the right model of gun is important, the condition of the gun is equally important. I don’t want to be the guy who paid $3,000 for a first model wire stock Daisy, only to learn that it has been rebuilt and refinished. Then, my gun is just a placeholder in my collection until I replace it with one that hasn’t been fooled with.
Some people have a hard time understanding how collectors feel about condition, so for those guys I offer this little gem: I once owned the hatchet George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree, only the handle had been replaced three times and the head twice. Think about it.
Sometimes the bargains stare you down!
First example of this is a Shiloh Sharps rifle you bought for $3,200 and wait three years after ordering. Are you aware that you can buy an original Sharps rifle in very nice condition for about the same money? Odd as it sounds, original Sharps rifles often sell for less than the modern replicas. People aren’t aware that they can buy them, or they fear buying an original gun that’s old and has no company backing it up.
You’ll pay $250-300 for a Daisy No. 25 Centennial pump gun in the box. That gun was made in 1986. For the same $250-300, you can buy a beautiful original 1916-version No. 25 that’s the real deal. I see vintage guns like these at airguns shows all the time, but the buying public doesn’t come to these shows, so they miss them. Food for thought.
The bottom line for buying airguns is the same as it is for buying art. Buy what you like. If you like it, then who cares about the price? However, if you try to artificially build a collection of fine airguns just as an investment, you’re heading for trouble. Because your heart’s not in it, you’ll overlook things a true collector never would. You’ll jump at opportunities to buy guns that are not really bargains if all you’re doing is trying to make money. But if you really like airguns and buy only those that strike your fancy, you should be well protected by your internal compass.
Personally, I would rather have 10 airguns I really enjoy than 100 that are just investments. That way, when the economy slows down, like it has for the past several years, I can always shoot the guns I have and be happy with them. The saddest sight is a collection where everything is in a box and you have to put gloves on to examine it. Airguns are meant to be shot. That’s my opinion, anyway.
by B.B. Pelletier
Fresh from the closet, another fine Crosman 160 emerges into daylight. We’ll watch this one blossom.
Today, I’m testing the Crosman 160 for accuracy. This is a target rifle — originally intended for 25-foot ranges, so 10 meters, which is very close to 33 feet, is the distance I shot for this test. And I shot at 10-meter rifle targets. It’s important to remember this rifle is a .22, not a .177, because the larger pellets will influence the overall group size.
The 160 has a post front sight that isn’t as precise as an aperture, but I learned to shoot on a similar sight, so it still works well for me. I’d disassembled the rear aperture sight during cleaning, so when I sighted-in there was a lot of adjusting to get the pellet on target.
I held my eye as close to the aperture as I could get, because my recent experience with both the Ballard and Remington model 37 has taught me that this is the way to get the best accuracy from an aperture sight. The tiny hole made my pupil dilate and the front sight came into sharp focus, as it always should.
I sighted-in with the JSB Exact 15.9-grain dome and left the sights there. So, the first group is well-centered and the other pellets are a little bit off.
Remember that wonderful trigger I told you about last time? Well, this is where it came into its own. It is breaking so light that I leave my finger off the blade until the sight picture is correct. Then it’s just touch and “Bang!” It breaks at a pound. I’ve bump-tested the gun several times without a pellet just to see if I could jar it off the sear, and it’s holding fine…but it feels like a precision set trigger. Perhaps, having the overtravel adjustment makes the difference.
I remember these 160s as being more accurate than they have a right to be, given their original price, and this one is, too. The first 10 shots went into a group that measures 0.313 inches. The group is very round and gives every indication that the rifle loves this pellet.
Next, I tried the .22-caliber Premiers. Back in the early 1990s, when this pellet first came out, 160 owners discovered their rifles were much more accurate than they had believed. When the 160 was new, it was thought that the best they would do was a quarter-sized group at 25 feet. Now they were shooting into a dime at 33 feet.
This time, the group wasn’t as good as some others I’ve shot. Ten shots measure 0.449 inches between centers. The point of impact shifted to the left a bit, as well.
I also wanted to try a pellet I’d never used in a 160, so the next pellet was an RWS Superdome. They should do well, being both medium weight and thin-skirted. A thin skirt can be blown out into the rifling by the low pressure of the CO2 gas, which will seal the pellet in the bore quite well.
Before you get excited from looking at these next targets, you need to know that I was interrupted while shooting and as a result I put 5 shots on each target, instead of the 10 on one, as planned. Although this was a mistake, it does illustrate, once again, the difference between the sizes of 5-shot and 10-shot groups.
If you didn’t know there were only 5 shots in this group, you could make up all sorts of claims for the RWS Superdome pellets. The group measures 0.107 inches between centers. This is 10-meter target rifle size — even though it was shot with the larger pellets! But it is only 5 shots.
As I loaded and shot, I reflected on the ease of the bolt’s operation. Opening it requires just the flick of one finger, because you’re not cocking a spring. It’s as quick as pulling back the bolt on a biathlon target rifle. Pushing the bolt forward takes some effort, though, because this is where the hammer spring gets compressed.
The big .22-caliber domed pellets lie in the loading trough and feed without a bobble. Where some guns want to flip pellets around, the 160 feeds them effortlessly every time. I can describe the cocking and loading experience as having an oily smoothness.
Upon examination, I feel the JSB Exact pellet did the best in this test. It put 10 pellets into a group the same size as the final 5 Superdomes made. It would be interesting to shoot another group of Superdomes that were not shot at the end of the gas supply, but I still think the JSBs will turn out better.
I noticed on the final 5 shots that the rifle sounded like it was losing power. Since 5 shots were used for sight-in, this rifle has given me 35 good shots on two cartridges. Blog reader Jim in PGH commented that an Archer Hammer Debouncer Device (abbreviated HDD and designed to give the valve stem a dead blow to exhaust gas without valve flutter) installed on a Chinese version of the 167 (a .177-caliber version of the 160) that he owns has increased his shot count to 80. That would be worth looking into, if you decide to go the 160 route.
Where are we?
As I shoot the 160, I cannot help but think of a fine 10-meter target air rifle. Kevin would be proud to shoot one so fine. I think most of you would be impressed with what this gun can do.
This is the last report I have planned for the 160. As I suspected, the owner of this 160 was not too keen about the two CO2 cartridges needed to power his gun, so he sold it to me. I have no plans for it at this time, other than to show it to several firearms shooters to impress them with what an airgun can do. I’m also toying with shooting it at 50 yards, just to see how it does.
by B.B. Pelletier
Kevin is responsible for this special Part 4 report on the Gamo Rocket IGT .177 breakbarrel. He pointed out that I didn’t give the rifle enough of a chance to excel in the accuracy test, and several of you agreed. Even Edith chimed in when she read Kevin’s comment. In light of the leniency I have shown the recently tested Hatsan springers, this is certainly true. I won’t change my normal way of reviewing airguns, but in this instance I can see that it makes good sense to try other pellets in this rifle.
It takes a long time to shoot a 10-shot group, so I resolved to shoot just 5 shots per pellet and see where that left me. If the five were reasonably close, I would complete the group with the other 5 shots.
First up was Kevin’s favorite, and a pellet I’ve found to be accurate in a variety of air rifles — the JSB Exact RS dome, which weighs 7.33 grains. I was prepared to be surprised by the accuracy, but RS domes delivered 5 shots into 1.29 inches at 25 yards. So I stopped shooting them. I remembered that the lighter pellets did worse in this rifle in the last test, so next I tried the heavyweight Beeman Kodiak pellet.
The first Kodiak pellet went way to the right of the aim point, then the next one about an inch to the left of that. After that, the pellets went to the same place until shot 6, when the pellet went back to the right. Some time in the final 4 shots, 2 pellets went to the right and low. How do I interpret this?
Kodiaks gave me this group. Six of the 10 shots are nicely grouped, but 4 others open the group considerably. This 10-shot group measures 1.257 inches between centers. The smaller group of 6 measures 0.635 inches.
This group made me wonder if I was being consistent enough with the Rocket IGT. Did I “season” the bore with enough pellets before shooting the group? I actually didn’t season it at all, but the fact that the last Kodiaks are as wide of the large group as the first one makes me think seasoning isn’t important here.
Was I holding the gun as carefully as I should be? That was a real concern. I hadn’t put a scope level on the gun, but was I completely relaxing and then shifting the crosshairs back to the target like I should?
Bottom line, I wanted to see another group of Kodiaks. That would perhaps tell me what I needed to know.
Ten more Kodiaks went into this group that measures 1.906 inches between centers. Eight of those pellets went into 0.784 inches — a group size that I think represents the true accuracy potential of the Rocket IGT.
The second group is very revealing. I tried just as hard to shoot well as I had with all the groups before, and there were no called fliers, but you can see from this group that some pellets didn’t want to play along. That tells me I’m probably not doing something consistently, and it’s affecting the results.
I tried one final group of 10 Crosman Premier heavies, just to see what another heavy pellet might do. This time, the 10-shot group was better than both groups of Kodiaks; but at 0.984 inches, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. The openness of this group makes me think that this is perhaps not the pellet for the Rocket IGT. But I’m not sure of that, either.
I’m going to give the Rocket IGT a fifth test, and this time I’m going to do everything I can to make it shoot well. I’m going to mount a more powerful scope, sort the pellets by weight, mount and use a scope level, and spend the time I need to shoot the finest groups possible.
You may not realize it, but it takes a LOT of time to shoot the absolute best you can. It takes me about 5 minutes per shot when I’m really working the artillery hold. I want to do this for this rifle because, in this test, I see the potential trying to peek through. Normally, the shooting I already did would be enough to make a decision.
If you think what I’m about to do is overkill, consider this. I shoot hundreds of different air rifles every year and never have the chance to get familiar with any of them. An owner who has just one rifle can, over time, become so familiar with that rifle that he can shoot like I am about to, but do it in far less time. But if I do take the time to settle in for each shot and if I do remove all of the accuracy-destroying variables, we will finally see what this rifle can really do.
Don’t think that I’m going to do this for every airgun test from now on. I’m doing it this time because Kevin and the other readers were right. The Rocket IGT needed more of a chance to shine; and when it got that, it showed the glimmer of a rifle that wants to shoot.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before someone jumps on me for repeating a blog report, I’m aware that there was a three-part blog of a Beeman R1 tested by Mac in 2010. That was a test of a brand-new Beeman R1 Elite Series Combo. Today, I am starting a report on the 18 year-old R1 that pretty much started things for me as an airgun writer.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about heirloom airguns. You know what I mean — the kind of airguns that never get old. They stick around and get remodeled and updated because everyone loves them. And everyone loves them because, at their hearts, they’re built to last.
What could epitomize this more (for me) than the very Beeman R1 air rifle I used to write my book? It all began in 1976, when I bought the first edition of Airgun Digest in the Stars and Stripes bookstore at Ferris Barracks in Erlangen, Germany. That book introduced me to Robert Beeman and he, in turn, showed me the awesome Feinwerkbau 124 pellet rifle. Never mind that I was living in the city where the excellent BSF airguns were then being made (and I didn’t know it). I wanted an FWB 124 so bad it hurt.
By the time I returned to San Jose in November 1977, I wanted a 124 so bad that I drove straight up to San Rafael and bought one at the Beeman store. I was king of the world for several years with that air rifle, until, at the end of 1981, the R1 was announced. Suddenly, I was a man without an airgun, because technology had trumped my 124.
You might expect me to have responded instantly to the change, but I wasn’t exactly what you would call an airgunner in those days. I shot them, for sure, but I still thought of myself as a firearms guy who also had some airguns. And even when it was brand new in the winter of 1981, the R1 sold for almost $300. So it went on the back burner. It wasn’t until 1991, 10 years and a new wife later, that I finally got my R1. It was a Christmas gift from Edith who thought that because I could speak of nothing else when it came to airguns, I must have wanted one. Women — go figure!
That first R1 was in .177 caliber, because I was still under the mesmerizing trance cast by Herr Doktor Beeman a decade before. A thousand feet per second, and then 1100 f.p.s. was a heady aroma for a new airgunner! Well, it didn’t take very long for me to discover what it meant.
The R1 was huge — much larger than most of the firearms I was shooting at the time. And it was hard to cock! I no longer owned my 124, but I remembered its willingness to move to the cocked position with a light touch. Compared to that, cocking the R1 was like bending the bow of Hercules.
When fired, the big rifle recoiled more than a little. And I couldn’t get it to shoot very well. Perhaps three inches at 50 yards was the best I could get it to do. What a disappointment! I had waited 11 years to dance with the prom queen; and when I did, I discovered that she had B.O. and wasn’t very nice!
I need to insert a note at this point. The R1 wasn’t the first air rifle Edith bought me. A couple years earlier, she gave me a Beeman C1 that I wanted mostly because it was just a fraction of the price of the R1 that was, by this time, over $400. I shot and shot that little C1 carbine. I shot it so much that the cocking became very easy and the trigger smoothed out. I even took it apart and gave it a lube tune that actually did improve the firing behavior. This was in the days before affordable chronographs, so I didn’t know how fast the little gun shot. What I mean by that is — I was satisfied.
I even stumbled on the artillery hold with that C1 and was so surprised that I wrote an article about it and sent it to Dr. Beeman for his newsletter. I never heard from him, so I figured the article was a bust. Little did I know what loomed on the horizon! Keep that in mind as I continue my story.
I actually got rid of the first R1 because I had a better rifle. At the same time she gave me the R1, Edith also gave me a used HW77K carbine that someone had tuned to perfection. It was heavier than the R1, but it didn’t recoil and the accuracy was stunning — especially with my new artillery hold. For a couple years, I continued in that direction. Then the airgun magazine I just subscribed to went belly up, and I was suddenly cut off from a hobby I was growing to enjoy.
Edith suggested that I write an airgun newsletter of my own; and when I told her I didn’t know anything about airguns, she asked me to write the titles of the articles I thought I could write. Three legal tablet sheets later, I had enough titles for the first two years of a newsletter — and The Airgun Letter was born.
A year into the newsletter, Edith and I were talking about things I could write and a thought dawned on me. We could buy a Beeman R1 and test it from brand new through the first thousand shots — the same thing any owner would do. Then I could tune it several ways and write even more articles. I could examine the Rekord trigger and mount a scope. In short, I could do all the things any airgunner would do with a new air rifle, only I could also write about it and photograph things as I went. The newsletter would virtually write itself!
This time, I resolved not to make the same mistake as before in buying the wrong caliber. The R1 is best-suited to a .22-caliber pellet because of its power, so that’s what we got — a brand new Beeman R1 in .22 caliber to test and write about. My writing career suddenly became much easier and more fun at the same time.
The rifle arrived, and I tested and recorded it throughout the 1,000-shot break-in. Then, at a thousand shots, I started to disassemble the rifle for a lube-tune when I discovered that one of the stock anchor flanges that the forearm screws attach to was broken off the spring tube. The rifle had to be returned to Beeman!
The rifle went back and Beeman welded the flange back on the tube. That didn’t bother me. But they also gave the rifle a moly tune, since all lubricant had to be removed for the welding. I was crushed! My test control had been destroyed by an act of kindness and generosity! When I talked to Don Walker at Beeman and explained what I was doing, he reluctantly agreed to send another new rifle. So the gun that I am reporting on today is that second .22-caliber Beeman R1.
It was fired and tested for another thousand shots, and I now had two new guns that had gone through the same break-in. That made the report, titled R1 Homebrew, all the more interesting. When the number of newsletter installments grew to nine, I knew I could write a book and that’s where the R1 book came from.
Well, that’s enough of the history of this rifle for now. What kind of air rifle is the Beeman R1? First of all, it got the name Supermagnum from the fact that it was the first spring rifle to break the thousand foot-per-second barrier in .177 caliber. It was initially advertised at 940 f.p.s. in .177 caliber, but within months that climbed to an even 1,000 f.p.s. Then Beeman came out with a special Laser tune that took the rifle up to 1,100 f.p.s. — a seemingly untouchable velocity. It could actually shoot lead pellets faster than the speed of sound!
When it was new, the R1 was considered a massive air rifle. Weighing nearly 9 lbs. and over 45 inches long, it was larger and heavier than most centerfire rifles. Today, we’re overwhelmed with magnum air rifles and these dimensions don’t seem so large — but they still come as a shock to anyone who’s never experienced a magnum spring rifle! In fact, I worry that we lose a lot of new potential airgunners who, upon experiencing one of these monsters for the first time, decide to do something else for recreation.
The R1 is made for Beeman by Weihrauch. The R1 was designed by Robert Beeman, who employed a CAD engineer just for the task of designing the gun. The agreement he made with Weihrauch was that Beeman owned the R1, but Weihrauch was free to market the same action in a European stock under the model name HW80. The 80 in that model name refers to the length of the piston stroke in millimeters. The R1 was a redesign of the HW35, which you now understand has a piston stroke of 35mm. That explains where the tremendous power of the rifle comes from. It’s not the piston diameter, though that is large, and it’s not the mainspring, though it’s also very powerful. It’s the long stroke that generates the awesome power.
Being a Weihrauch gun, the R1 comes with the Rekord trigger that many of you recognize as one of the top sporting airgun triggers. Ivan Hancock based his Mach II trigger on the Rekord. It’s a sporting trigger of even greater adjustability and finesse than the Rekord. And the Air Arms trigger that’s found in the TX200 is also a close cousin to the Rekord.
Cocking effort on a stock R1 begins at over 50 lbs. of effort; but after a thousand-shot break-in, it usually drops to around 46 lbs. In its day, that was a lot of force to cock a rifle. Today, it’s on the low side for magnum rifles. I personally don’t even like to do that much work, so I’ve tuned my R1 down to less effort while still retaining most of the power. That long piston stroke does a lot for you!
Compared to today’s modern air rifles, the R1 seems like a traditional old-school gun. Although the stock is made of beech, not walnut, it’s nicely checkered and well-shaped. The finish is a modern synthetic that takes a shine after being handled awhile. The bluing used to look matte to my eyes when compared to guns like the Webley Mark III, but in today’s market it is a standout deep black with a good polish.
Back in the day, R1 guns came with fine, adjustable Weihrauch open sights and the front globe took inserts. Those days are gone for economic reasons and also because the majority of buyers will scope their rifles immediately. All veteran Weihrauch owners like me have a drawer filled with take-off sights from guns we’ve owned in the past.
I tested two new .22-caliber R1s for my articles, and they both performed similarly, though the second rifle was slightly more powerful. When new, it generated above 19 foot-pounds with RWS Hobby pellets; and after 1,000 shots, it dropped to 18.4 foot-pounds. That’s an average of 838 f.p.s. for the light Hobby pellet. The cocking effort decreased to 46 lbs. at this point, but the gun hadn’t been lubricated yet.
I then stripped the rifle and gave it a standard moly lube job, putting moly on the thrust washers that ride between the base block and the action fork. The cocking effort dropped to 39 lbs., and the power dropped to 16.98 foot-pounds with Hobby pellets.
I’d used Beeman Mainspring Dampening Compound on the mainspring in this tune; and when this compound was removed, the cocking effort remained at 39 lbs. and the power increased to 17.47 foot-pounds. Some vibration crept back in, and the recoil felt a little heavier — but it was still better than the broken-in gun before the tune.
One last thing
My rifle has the Vortek adjustable muzzlebrake for tuning a spring gun. I’d forgotten that I put it on this rifle. Maybe I can do some tuning during accuracy testing?
I’m going to tell you where my R1 is now, with regard to tunes, in the next report. It won’t be the report of a brand-new airgun; but if you want one like it, the model is still being sold. All you have to do is put about 20,000 shots on i,t and you’ll have one that’s as well-used as mine.
I’ll show you the velocity and power of the rifle as it’s now tuned, plus I’ll give you an historical look at several past tunes that have been noteworthy.
Finally, I’ll show you the accuracy you can expect from this rifle. In the time since I last shot it seriously, there have been vast improvements in pellets. We may be in for some surprises.