2012 Roanoke Airgun Show

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Every airgun show has one or more themes. Some shows have piles of new-old-stock airguns that have been recently found. I remember at one show seeing stacks of S&W 78G and 79G target pistols that had never been sold. They were over 30 years old and still new in the box. At another show, there was a pile of Johnson Indoor Target Guns in the same condition, only the boxes were disintegrating after 60 years in storage. And, once, at Little Rock, a guy pulled up to the door and unloaded about thirty LNIB airguns that he’d purchased 20 years earlier. They were all high-grade guns, and he wanted exactly what he’d paid for them. Imagine being able to buy a Beeman R1 at a 1985 price!

At this show, the theme seemed to be entrepreneurial airgunners and what they’ve done. Paul Watts was the first table I visited. Edith and I remember when Paul Watts was just getting started as an airgun tuner. He had no idea then who he would turn out to be. But his friend brought the first major tuning job he ever did and had it on display at the show. It’s an R1 with a special steel base block that allows you to swap barrels!

Beeman R1 Paul Watts interchangeable barrels
Paul Watts’ first major airgun modification was this Beeman R1. He made it accept barrels of different calibers, plus he stocked it in this beautiful figured walnut stock. A friend found it for sale on Gun Broker.

Another major entrepreneur is Mike Reames, who works in CO2 like nobody else. Where others have been content to reseal and tune guns, Mike’s been making his own designs for many years. This year, I was attracted to one of his ball-flask pistol creations on a collector’s table. I’m sure the design of the gun will surprise many of you, but that wasn’t what caught my eye.

Mike Reams ball flask CO2 pistol with interchangeable barrels
Mike Reames made this CO2-powered ball-flask pistol that has interchangeable barrels.

What really startled me was finding out that Mike was making the swaging dies for the bullets that fit the several interchangeable barrels for the pistol. If he can do that, I wondered (aloud) if he might also make a custom swage for my Nelson Lewis rifle barrel? Mike was enthusiastic about the project, so I now have a source for a die that cannot be obtained anywhere else! Why do I need it? Because the original Nelson Lewis dies don’t work very well, and Mike’s apparently are very easy to use! You know there will be a full report coming!

Mike Reams outside lock guns
Mike Reames is working on these two outside lock designs. Can you believe things like this are being made today?

Two of our regular readers — Ridgerunner and Fred from the People’s Republik of New Jersey — came to the tables Mac and I shared and spent a lot of time with us. Both men brought guns to sell, and both walked out with cash or different guns! Both had been to this show before, and I think they’ll agree that it was larger this year than last.

Mac and Ridgerunner
Mac (seated) talks airguns with Ridgerunner. They were about to strike a big deal!

Ridgerunner brought his FWB 601 target rifle, among other things. He was looking to turn it into a Talon SS. Mac was selling a real sweetie that I built for him years ago. It has a special 26-inch, .177-caliber HW barrel and is an extremely good long-range airgun. The two of them did the tarantula dance for a couple hours (really — I’m not kidding!) and then deal was done.

Literally minutes after the deal was closed, Mac put his new gun in the rack (it still had Ridgerunner’s pricetag on it), and a young man asked him for the full tour. The gun had everything, and Mac pulled it all out of the box to show him. Then he shrugged, looked at his wife, thanked Mac and walked away. I sat down and started planting the seeds of desire in Mac’s mind, telling him of the treasures I would give him for the gun and why he needed to write a guest blog about it. Then, after an hour, the young man and his wife reappeared at our table, and he said he guessed he had to have it! It was bittersweet! I was glad to see Mac score so soon, yet I wanted to be the one who got the gun.

FWB 601 and 350 Magnum
Ridgerunner’s FWB 601 and Fred’s 350 Magnum.

I once wrote that we’re only temporary caretakers of the airguns we have. If you think about it, 30 years before now others enjoyed many of the guns in your safe. I just wanted to be the caretaker of that 601 for a couple years — just to be able to say I had one.

Without a doubt, Friday was the day with the heaviest traffic, as buyers have learned to come early to get the best deals. In fact, I sold two guns on Thursday evening as we were setting up. The sales came both early and often for Mac and me. But not everybody had the same experience. Price was a bigger concern this year than at any time in the past, and our stuff was priced pretty low. As I walked around the show, I saw tables where the other dealers had figured this out, as well, and they seemed to be selling, too. But the tables with higher-priced guns just seemed to have more tire-kickers than usual.

HW EL54 Baracuda
This ether-injected HW Barakuda was priced at only $700! That’s about $300-400 off the normal asking price for one.

On Saturday, I bought a beautiful Chinese sidelever springer that I’ll show you very soon. I was surprised by the high level of finish the gun has (it’s like new in the box). When the dealer put a price of $40 on it, I almost bought it on the spot. The only thing that stopped me was that another dealer was there and saw the gun, too, and he said he had one at his table that he needed to reduce, if that one was going for only¬†$40. But when I went to his table, the price was still higher — so I marched back and bought the first one. Wait until you see it!

There were also guns that were for display only. Crosman collector Tom Slocum showed the only known model 1400 that was ever made in .177 caliber. It has a beautiful walnut stock. Not only does he have the rifle, which is in new condition by the way, but he also has the original bill of sale that proves this is a .177-caliber 1400. And there’s a letter from Crosman documenting it as well.

Crosman 1400
This Crosman 1400 is the only known .177. The stock is walnut.

Another innovator is our own Lloyd Sykes, of Benjamin Rogue fame. Lloyd now runs AirgunLab.com and is best-known for offering the Disco Double — an extra air reservoir tube kit to expand the capacity of your Benjamin Discovery. But there was a .25-caliber, 90 foot-pound rifle on the table, too. So Lloyd is becoming another source for reasonably-priced custom airguns. We talked and agreed that I’ll test one of his inventions soon.

Lloyd Sykes
Lloyd Sikes (seated) shows his new 90 foot-pound rifle to a customer.

This year, many readers of this blog stopped by and introduced themselves. A lot of you don’t make comments on the blog, but you say that you read it regularly. I want you to know that seeing you at this show was one of the high points for me. It’s nice to know there are real folks out there enjoying the same things I do.

Any regrets?
I was very parsimonious at this show. I only bought one gun, though I saw several I liked. One of them was so good it’s going to give me regrets, I am afraid. A cased FWB 65 with all the equipment in a factory case was offered for just $250. I had other places for my money to go or I would have broken my hand paying that price!

The other regret is one that unfortunately cannot be avoided. When Dennis Quackenbush read off the names of the airgunners who are no longer with us, a thousand images flooded my mind. Even Dennis got choked up as he read the long list of those who have left the range. And the really sad part is that it was just the list for one year! The older airgunners are starting to leave us in numbers that are too great to bear.

Of course, the show came to a close all too soon. Like old-time settlers in a wagon train, we all broke camp and packed our guns away. As we headed out, each of us was thinking of the next show and what we might see. I hope to see some more of you readers at next year’s show.

43 thoughts on “2012 Roanoke Airgun Show


    • Joe,

      It was a great show. And I left out many things, like the new Shoebox compressor, Dennis Quackenbush, etc.

      Maybe I’ll put a Part 2 together.

      B.B.


  1. I think I have half of that CO2 flask pistol…

    The brass body and grip sure look like those from my ca. 1976 black powder “New Orleans Ace” kit pistol. (though it could also come from that companies “duck foot” too — instead of screwing the steel barrel directly to the brass, the duck foot had a barrel block to which three barrels mounted)


  2. B.B.

    Nice guns. I especially like those vintage-styled ones – well, I love vintage even when it comes in hi-tech package. However judging from pictures – there are self-mades, but not many customized airguns among them. Is it just photos or the tradition itself is not very much developed – re-barreling, re-stocking into fancy and anatomical stocks, all kinds of hot-rodding them?

    I finished inletting action into wood and made it ready for some bedding. Today I will start carving and sculpting, so may Almighty guide my chisels as they have _a lot_ of work to do. By today, my stock blank lost some 10% of its weight, 30% left to take off. Pictures to follow.

    duskwight


    • duskwight,

      Mike does modify existing guns to make some of these beauties. The outside-lock guns are completely made by him, though.

      Can’t wait to see the pics!

      B.B.


      • Speaking of outside locks, Barnes’ rifle that B.B. owned and wrote about a while back was there and I was able to caress and drool all over it for a good little bit. Alas, my wallet is too thin. If I had not already finished “dancing” with Mac, I would have tried to dance with the present owner.


      • All right, started sculpting. 1-inch + 1/2 inch chisels and a bit of a small hacksaw – wonderful stuff to cut laminated wood I must say, as the “wood” is very near to soft metal. Narrow saw blade helps to undercut come layers and prohibit cut spreading too long or too deep. Today it took me 2 hours of methodic job to take off a fist-sized amount of wood and rough shape of the grip starts to appear. Structure must be great when it’s finished – thin layers of yellowish-white birch and pinkish-white beech divided by chocolate-brown cement.
        Not much eye candy – crude work in progress but it is like this: http://i46.tinypic.com/2u7prn5.jpg

        duskwight




          • B.B.

            What’s more exciting – I can now hold the stock, at least put my fingers around the grip :), and check how it feels when shouldered. It feels, well, like more material to come off the stock.

            duskwight


            • duskwight,

              I bet it feels like holding a fence post at this point. But you are holding a rifle YOU designed and made! That’s got to make you proud.

              B.B.


  3. duskwight,

    Mike does modify existing guns to make some of these beauties. The outside-lock guns are completely made by him, though.

    Can’t wait to see the pics!

    B.B.


  4. B.B.,
    I think you hit the nail on the head about the entrepreneurial spirit of the show. In the picture you took of me, Sean Stephens from Va Beach and I are exchanging ideas and doing our own tarantula dance. Sean is another (much younger, LOL) entrepreneur who builds stunningly beautiful custom PCPs and he had several on display. I had been “needing” a unique beauty like he is building. It was good to see you and Mac, and so many of the other people in the community, including those that I knew about but had never met. I even ran into Fred from the Peoples Republic at the hotel!
    For the past year, my nose has been to the grindstone with airgun projects (still working full time), and after about five years of attending this show, I finally made the leap and got a spot to display my work. It was a totally different experience from that side of the table and it was so good to reconnect at that wonderful event.
    Lloyd-ss


  5. B.B…..you’re the best, great to read someone with so much positive enthusiasm and wisdom. Our sport is great because of people like you!


  6. and I walked past the Disco double table, looked at the high pressure storage tubing and new barrel mounts and rings and never looked to see who was sitting behind the table! Yep, Lloyd and I ran into each other at the hotel after I had dinner with Mac and Tom. Now I have to call Air Force and find out where to have the cylinder on my brandy new but slightly used Talon SS. Seems the cylinder was last hydrostatically tested in 1997!.

    Hey Chuck61, guess who also rides a motorcycle?

    Fred DPRoNJ


    • Fred,
      Well, I had this dream where I pulled up into this hotel parking spot right next to four riders on shimmering, silver Harley Ultra Classics. As I set my bike down on its kickstand and listened to the ticking of the cylinder head heat vanes as they cooled down, I saw the four riders next to me remove their chrome domes and WOW! Fed and Lloyd and Tom and Mac who had just returned from a sumptuous, medium rare Prime Rib dinner at Tom Gaylord’s expense. Edith jumped off the back of Tom’s bike, and she had a sly smile on her face because she now knew what to get Tom for Christmas. Then I woke up in this cozy motel in Fancy Gap, the temperature was 47 degrees outside, fog thicker than pea soup and rain in the forecast, and I was a thousand miles from home.

      Am I close?

      -Chuckj


  7. I wish i was there but i was on call that weekend . It was a seven hour ride from ct/ny line maybe next year. But thanks for letting us see a glimps of the show.


  8. OK,

    Since Mac’s “new” FWB 601 sold out the door right away, if you like I will commit to a blog on my C62, a year or so newer than the 601 series, and CO2 powered. Externally they are quite similar except for the tank for the CO2 gas vs the lever for pumping.

    In the meantime, FWB has put out a lovely YouTube video of the manufacture and performance of its newest ultra-high-end model, the FWB 800. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj8hCcrAwk4&feature=plcp

    The film starts out with a demonstration of the proof test of a finished rifle: 5 consecutive shots into the same hole, a small enough hole that the tail of a sixth pellet hangs on the torn paper edges. Then you get to see just how much hand work and precision goes into the manufacture of such a gun! Well worth the six minutes to watch it.

    The word from my surgeon is that “there are no signs of disease, and no suspicious places where any could be lurking. See me in six months.” Hooray!

    OTOH, I’m still so weak and klutzy that I tripped on the way into the hospital, fell, hit my left cheek on a planter box and cracked a cheek bone. But I got to meet the dumbest good samaritan on earth:

    I hit the ground and am somewhat stunned, so he comes up to me and asks if I’m OK. I say “definitely not”, and he helps me into a sitting position. Now picture this: I am 10 meters from the front door of the finest hospital in DC, a renowned trauma and cancer center, and this guy pulls out his cell and dials 911! I should have waited to hear the loud noises coming from the 911 operator when he looked at the phone’s GPS location. But, nah. I told him just to poke his nose in the front door and ask the receptionist to get somebody from the ER.

    pete



    • Got to be careful about falling. Get a cane. I actually found myself liking it. Very helpful in surprising ways and has a bit of style. My latest medication sometimes makes me dizzy, so I have this in mind.

      Matt61


      • A cane such as a sprain made me use in Cambridge, UK, turns me int a crotchety old man with the power to scare Harry Potters inside out. Many style points were awarded!

        Pete


    • Pete,

      I accept your kind offer of a guest blog of your FWB C62. At your time and no rush.

      I pray for you every day, but never asked for you to fall at the front door of a hospital! Is that incredibly good luck, or incredibly bad? I can’t decide.

      At any rate, you heal and get to feeling better before you undertake anything strenuous.

      And, thanks for the link to the FWB 800!

      B.B.


  9. One thing that was noticeably absent this year was 10 meter rifles and pistols. Last year they were wall to wall, but only a few CO2 pistols and springer rifles this year.

    As a little tease for all the AirForce fans out there, John McCausland (I know I have the name wrong and will appreciate it if someone corrects me) attended the show and I had a quite lengthy discussion with him. You guys may want to start saving up your pennies for what is going to be new for 2013.


  10. I wish I had more money to spend and Virginia wasn’t so far away… but the blog is the next best thing.

    J-F

    ps : a tough one today. 1+1=? better get the calculator out!


  11. Hello,

    I was at the show and really enjoyed it. I’d like to get in touch with one of the dealers, but I don’t remember his name. Is there a published list of dealers who were at the show?

    Thanks!


  12. Wow, that’s quite a show with impressive hardware. All that bargaining is also good practice for the apocalypse. :-) And it’s nice to see that Lloyd is still working on projects. Maybe we should call him Q.

    B.B., I’ve heard of the Camillus brand, and I myself seem to be getting more carbon steel blades. I just made the Roman gladius shave hair off my arm (it’s 1095) although controlling it was difficult.

    Wulfraed, there is an ancient text about how some barbarian enemies of Rome tried to cover up against the thrusting power of the gladius. The legionnaires went to work with the edge in a way that had them rolling on the ground, screaming. It was pretty gross. I am surprised at the chopping power of the gladius after a bit of experimentation. As for the medieval nobility, I have heard the theory that their conflicts were more like a football game for ransom while they rode roughshod over the peasantry. But there was enough bloodshed that I suspect that their swords were plenty lethal too.

    Duskwight, that’s an interesting variation of the woman prisoner’s phrase. And what an interesting take on social organization coming from a Ph.D. in political science. :-) I myself have heard the saying that he travels swiftest who travels alone. There are uses for groups, but they need to make it worthwhile. Your stock looks good already. I’m about ready to give up on the barrel bands of my Mosin.

    Matt61


    • Matt,

      In science I prefer to view things just like Richard Feynman, simple. When all hell breaks loose it’s better to follow basic rules and instincts – as everyone else is following them. Leave politics for a more stable and less violent times. As a Ph.D. in political science I tell ya – nothing beats the club in any kind of debate :)

      duskwight


  13. Tom,

    Thanks for the Roanoke report and photo’s. Brings back some great memories. It’s wonderful that Davis has picked up the torch.

    In light of the fallen, veteran airgunner’s list that seems to grow each year it’s admirable that folks like you and Davis are driven to continue to promote these important airgun institutions and spread the word of airguns to the world. Especially the rare and vintage airguns. We cannot forget our airgun roots or we are lost.

    The knowledge base and demand for vintage and rare airguns seems to shrink exponentially with the passing of each devoted and passionate vintage airgun collector.

    You didn’t publish many photo’s of the traffic at Roanoke but it seems the attendance was down? Maybe not. Maybe just a sign of our economic times?

    The photo is not clear but is that the Falke 90 on the table in front of Mac?

    kevin


    • Kevin,

      The traffic was way down from what you saw at the Civic Center, but up from last year. There were a ttird more dealers this year, which puts it about 30 less than yo saw.

      Yes, I had the Falke 90 on the table at $250 and nobody bit. I was shocked, because where ya gonna get one? But that’s how things went.

      B.B.


  14. Nice report on the show Tom, Thanks!
    I appreciate the nice things you’ve said about me and the things I’ve hacked out over the years. Your enthusiasm and interest in all things airguns have been an inspiration to me, and I’m sure many other hobbyists!
    I like the outside lock guns, and have passed up buying originals because they’re expensive and may not be safe to shoot, so I try to make mine similar but not copies..I’m always looking at black powder and airguns for ideas to incorporate in my own builds…
    I’ll be in touch in a week or so regarding the swaging dies..


    • Mike,

      Hey! You’re supposed to be surf-fishing with your son. No fair working when you’re on your holiday. ;)

      We will talk when you return. Good fishing!

      B.B.


    • Mike. It was good to see you and your son at the show. Didn’t get to talk much, too busy chattin up the crowd. Those little ball flask guns are really something! All the sellers seemed to be in good spirits this year, even with prices being down. Overall, I was impressed. Only bought one little thing, but traded for 11 pocket knives. Gotta pay off the motorcycle I bought in a moment of weakness! Mac


  15. The Roanoke show was my first. I’ll be back next year, God willing, and I’ll be bringing a friend who’s kicking himself that he didn’t travel with me this year.


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