Archive for November 2012
by B.B. Pelletier
Charly Arias is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
I seem to be on a kick talking about finding great vintage guns these days, so today I thought I’d share a couple secrets that really work. In the past, we’ve talked about making the rounds of pawn shops and small gun stores. You readers have told me your tales of miracle acquisitions, and I’ve shared mine with you.
My Texas shooting buddy, Otho, said yesterday, “A lot of fellers sit on their couch in the cabin and talk about deer hunting. But only the ones that actually get out into the woods seem to get deer.” Another way of saying that is the old salesman’s proverb, “If you want to make the sales, you have to make the calls.”
What does this have to do with you? Well, perhaps you would like to acquire a nice airgun — an old one or maybe something relatively new — but maybe you don’t think you have enough money. Or you don’t know where to look for such a gun. Or you’ve looked and found nothing. That’s what I want to talk about today.
Trading is up
Let’s start with the money issue. Almost none of us have enough money to satisfy all our desires — especially if some of those desires are for airguns. What can you do? Well, consider this. In the last three years, I’ve noticed that trading has increased to the point that it’s a booming business today. The economy is one big driver of this trend. As it becomes worse, people have to barter more to get the things they need. There’s craigslist.com and other websites where bartering goes on, but you don’t even need a computer to do a trade. All you need is something the other guy wants. Then, he needs to be convinced to give you what you want for it.
Often, the barter is an item for a like item — for example, my airgun for your airgun. That’s one-dimensional trading, and it is so basic that I believe we’re all genetically coded with it at birth. But you can do even better if you start thinking in more dimensions. For example, my camera for your airgun or my bass boat with trolling motor for your 10-meter target rifle. The way to find deals like this is to talk to people and let them do 75 percent of the talking. My friends Otho and Mac are both highly skilled at this. As a result, they both have firearm collections that make mine look like a starter set. But only in Texas! In California, my collection would be called an arsenal!
Make it a game!
What I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth. You veteran readers know that I owned a Peabody dropping block rifle a few years ago. Here’s a picture of it:
Peabody dropping block rifle.
I’d acquired that rifle just after returning home from the hospital, and I wrote one or two blogs about it. Then, at the 2010 Roanoke airgun show, Mac needed some cash to make some kind of deal and I bought a collectible rifle from him. And finally, while browsing through a local gun store, I picked up a Winchester model 72 semiauto in .22 short that was chrome-plated. Not nickel — chrome. I thought some good old boy had buggered it up, and so did the store owner, but a little research revealed that it was a very rare gallery model of the gun that was made in the first year of production.
Long story short, I was able to trade all three guns for the Marlin Ballard. Here’s what that one looks like.
The bottom line is this: Through these trades, I have just over half of the asking price in the Ballard. The store owner felt he got a good deal and so did I. It hurt me to let go of the Peabody, but I wanted the Ballard a lot more; and as I told you the other day, I have to own these things sequentially.
The lesson is that you can turn that unused drill press, canoe and two-wheel utility trailer into the nicest Weihrauch or Feinwerkbau gun you ever saw. But you have to leave the cabin to do it.
Hunting for buried treasure
I used to be a fairly regular treasure hunter. I used several different metal detectors to find my treasures in a segment of the hobby known as coin shooting. One day, I got bored with just finding modern money and the odd silver coin, so I decided to change my searching technique. I told Edith, who accompanied me on these hunts, that this day we would cover an area just 20 feet by 30 feet. We would lower the discrimination on the detector to reject only rusty ferrous metal and pick up everything else. And we would search the ground very slowly instead of covering a lot of ground fast.
We found all the aluminum pull tabs, chopped-up soda cans, pop bottle caps and wadded up tinfoil from chewing gun that had been dropped on that college ground over the past 60 years. We also found plumbing fixtures, odd bits of metal and other stuff too weird to identify. At the end of our two-hour search, my trash bag was full of this kind of garbage.
We also found a handful of American nickel coins — coins I almost never found before. Two of them were Buffalo nickels, and one of those had a date. I also found a small silver earring, a silver mezuzah and three small silver rings.
A photo of all my garbage would have turned off most inexperienced treasure hunters, but several photos of my good finds made it into the first magazine article I ever published – A Carpet of Nickels. That hunt opened my eyes to what’s possible; but because there was so much trash, it also wore me out!
Several months later, while hunting the same college campus, I asked Edith if she wanted to try that technique again. She did and within an hour we had another pile of garbage and the first gold ring Edith ever saw come out of the ground. I’d seen others, but never as small as this 10-karat woman’s class ring.
If you change your search strategy, you’ll find things others missed. Here’s how doing exactly that worked for me this month. I was looking for a nice .22 Hornet rifle with a modern .224-inch bore. I have a vintage Savage 23D with a .223-inch bore, but today’s bullets are so superior that I wanted a rifle with a .224-inch bore to shoot them in. I did a long involved trade that landed me a Winchester model 43 in .22 Hornet that I intended to scope and use. But after examining it, I could not bring myself to ruin this pristine and collectible Winchester by drilling and tapping it for a scope. So, I kept looking for a modern Hornet on GunBroker.
I looked there every day until I’d memorized all the Hornets they had. Each one had something wrong or was too much money for me to pay, and they didn’t want to trade anything for it. Then, on a whim, I did a search on the name Weihrauch. I knew there would be some airguns and a few cheap revolvers under the Arminius brand. I also knew there were two .22 Hornets that were built on Weihrauch HW 52 dropping block actions. They were both too expensive for me, and I had already seen them during my earlier searches for Hornets. But I hadn’t seen the one HW 52 in like-new condition and .22 Hornet caliber that was listed at HALF the price of the others — because, for some reason, it hadn’t come up. The auction was one without a reserve and I was the only bidder — probably because I was one of the very few people who could see the listing.
In case you’re wondering where all my money comes from to buy these guns, this year it came from selling a bunch of airguns for cash at Roanoke. I sold them for what I had in them or at a loss. Yes, I said a loss. I got the cash, plus I added a little to it when I got back home by selling another firearm at a loss, too. But the loss I suffered was more than recovered in the one purchase of this HW 52.
An HW 52 falling block rifle in .22 Hornet caliber.
I don’t yet know how many HW 52s were made in .22 Hornet. I plan to ask Hans Weihrauch, Jr., at the SHOT Show.
Other strange searches turn up great results
My success with the HW 52 prompted me to try some other odd searches on GunBroker. You know how some people pronounce Anschütz as Anschults? I searched on that spelling and came up with a short list of guns. The only people who will see them are those who also misspell the company name that way. Since that worked, how about Leopold instead of Leupold? It works! Try it and see.
Most airgun collectors know that a great many people spell Crosman as Crossman. Do that on GunBroker, and you’ll get a very long list of guns. But most airgunners know to do that, so it isn’t a great advantage. Nor is misspelling Daisy as Daisey.
But here’s something that REALLY works! Try searching on just the name of a scope, like Lyman. Among the hundreds of scopes you find, there will be guns listed with Lyman scopes mounted on them. And every once in awhile, you’ll find something like a Mossberg 44US that has a Lyman Super Targetspot scope on it. You’ve found a $200 rifle with a $800 scope. And the listed starting price will be $175. I’m not kidding about this. I found a Winchester model 52 with a Super Targetspot listed at $800 and the seller obviously felt bad because the target sights were’t included. I also found a Remington model 37 target rifle with some kind of scope on it (and the original target sights) that was stated at $700 for the package. The rifle with sights is worth $1,200-1,500 by itself!
Look for the rebadged guns
When it comes to airguns, I find better-known models that are usually overpriced because gun dealers really don’t know the airgun market. I doubt you’ll get a deal on an Anschütz 250 target rifle these days. But a Diana model 27 that sells under the name Hy Score 807 or Beeman Original 100 might just be a bargain.
This is something I’ve done only once, but I did quite well with it. Mac and I went together and bought two collections that we sold off for a handsome profit. But I know guys who make a great business of buying and reselling collections as individual airguns. The problem with doing this is what keeps people like me away. It takes a large amount of money up front. But you do get your money back with a great profit as long as you buy the right things. You have to know your market and know where you can sell most of the things you buy or be willing to sit on the guns a long time to make the full value on them. When Mac and I did it, we both plowed the profit back into our personal collections so there was no money left for any future deals, had they come along.
My Texas gun buddy, Otho, does this mass buying in a rather interesting way. Besides guns, he also buys related stuff. Here in Texas, Otho has a reputation as a hobby gunsmith; so when someone has a pile of gun-related things to get rid of, his name often comes up. This year, he bought over 50 rifle barrels along with holsters and other gun parts in one such collection. He made his money back on about half the barrels, then had a field day selling holsters, revolver cylinders and gun barrels at several gun shows. Of course, that brings not only buyers but also more people who are looking for an outlet for what they have to sell. So, it’s sort of self-perpetuating.
Sporting goods stores
Some of the big sporting goods stores do a brisk trade in used guns. They’re one of the first places where the estate lawyers know to go when the widow of a gun collector is looking to cash out. These places employ some pretty savvy people, so most of what you’ll see there will be priced at or above fair market value. You can offer them less for anything and if they have had it too long, they usually will sell it. And every once in awhile they will let a diamond slip through. I bought my Winchester High Wall in .219 Zipper Improved at a local store for about half of what it’s worth. But like Otho says, you won’t kill any deer just sitting on the couch! You actually have to go to thee stores and go frequently enough to catch the buys when they come through.
Last bit of advice also comes from Otho. He hits the pawn shops like a biker hits a roadhouse! He actually has a route that he runs frequently. Here’s his tip. The pawn shops that are owner-operated are far less likely to have a good find than the big chain pawn shops. We have a chain called Cash America here in Texas. The little dealers take the time to research what they have, but the chains are operated by employees who don’t do as much research. They mostly sell things based on what the store paid for an item. Sure, everybody knows what a Colt Python is worth and is unlikely to sell it for a bargain price, but how many would be familiar with an HW 50S? I’ve made some real scores on lesser-known airguns in pawn shops that couldn’t be bothered to check out “BB guns.”
That was on my chest for the past few weeks, and I had to tell you about it today. If you do decide to do some of these things, or if you’ve been doing them all along, I’d sure like to hear your story.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Am I a gun collector? Not in the strictest sense. I do have a lot of guns, but I run through them fast — getting rid of the ones I’m no longer interested in and getting others that I’ve never had before. A couple guns, like the M1 Carbine, do fascinate me to the point that I’m attracted to every one of them. Even with that model, I’ve pared down the number I own to just one.
And I’ve always been this way. If you met me 40 years ago, I would just be a younger version of myself, and the guns I owned then were different from those I have today. I’m sentimental to a point, but my curiosity overcomes nostalgia when it comes to owning guns. And, because I have limited means, I have to own them sequentially rather than all at once.
Back in the salad years, I was questing after the guns that everyone wants — the Lugers, Colt SAAs and Winchester lever actions. And among all those wonderful guns I once owned, there was a Walther P38. The P38, which is short for Pistole (19)38 was designed in 1938 to use modern (at the time) production methods to build a sidearm that replaced the more complex and manufacturing-intensive P08 (Luger). The P38 was adopted by the German army in 9x19mm caliber, which is more commonly called the 9mm Luger.
I knew when I bought the gun that it wasn’t built the same as a Luger (which I would have to wait a few more years to acquire), and the actual pistol I could afford at the time had lots of wear on it. The accuracy wasn’t the absolute best — and that was at a time when I was shooting handguns all the time, so accuracy mattered a lot.
My impressions of the gun were that it was made differently than I’d expected. It was made of stamped parts, and the tolerances were on the loose side. Of course, my well-used gun was probably even looser than the norm, but I do remember being surprised at the rattle it made when shaken.
At the time, it was one of a very few semiautomatic pistols that were both single-action and double-action. So, you could carry it with a round in the chamber and just pull the trigger to start shooting. The Browning High Power (P35) was another one, but in those days I couldn’t come close to affording one of those. Over the years, they’ve come down in price as my purchasing power has risen, but I’ve still never owned one!
I was prepared for a horrible double-action trigger-pull from my weary P38, but even that well-worn example surprised me by being light and smooth. And the single-action pull was reasonable, if just a bit creepy. After all, this was a wartime sidearm that had seen a lifetime of field use and it was in about the same operating condition as any arms-room M1911A1, so a creepy trigger is to be expected.
This was my very first 9mm handgun, and the light recoil really came as a shock. After a childhood spent listening to stories of Lugers that shot through several people with a single bullet, I was expecting a real cannon; but as anyone who has shot the round knows, that simply is not the case. It has very little recoil for the power and is absolutely delightful to shoot.
The other thing that surprised me was how natural this pistol felt. It was replacing the Luger, which is the poster-child for an ergonomic handgun, yet the P38 did not disappoint when I brought it up to shoot.
The Walther P38 BB pistol
Now that I’ve told you my own backstory of P38 experience, let’s look at this Walther P38 CO2 BB pistol! For starters, this one is finished beautifully! Umarex has really gotten the finish of these replica guns down to a fine science, and this one is darkly blued. The metal is smooth and shiny and so good-looking that only the owner will know it isn’t a firearm.
The grips are brown plastic, designed to resemble wood, but they don’t quite make it. They are a little too reflective, though an effort has been made to dull them.
This is a BB pistol with a 20-shot drop-free stick magazine. It’s released by a lever located at the bottom rear of the grip frame, and the mag must be removed to pop off the left grip panel so you can install a CO2 cartridge. The tensioning screw for the cartridge is completely hidden within the grip so the gun’s profile is entirely authentic. In fact, there’s even a cleat at the bottom of the left grip panel for a lanyard hook — just like on the firearm!
The safety is a switch on the upper left rear of the slide. Up makes the gun ready to fire and down makes it safe, but you need to push the lever all the way down until a click is felt. If you don’t, the gun is not on safe and will fire when the trigger is pulled. The safety looks like the kind that also de-cocks the hammer, but this one doesn’t do that.
The one thing I wish was different is that this P38 doesn’t have a double-action trigger. The hammer must be manually cocked to prepare the gun for firing the first shot. After that, blowback cocks the hammer for each successive shot, so you have a true semiautomatic pistol. The blowback is brisk, though the mass of the slide is low, and you can definitely feel the shot going off. After the last BB has left the muzzle, the slide stays back so you know it’s time to reload.
The slide is held in place by the slide release, which is a working lever on the left side of the gun, just above the trigger. Reload the magazine, slip it back in the gun and push the lever down to let the slide go forward.
When the last BB’s fired, the slide stays open like this, alerting the shooter that the pistol needs to be reloaded. The slide release is a lever just above the trigger that’s pushed down to release the slide.
The magazine could be easier to load. To load it, you retract the spring-loaded follower and lock it in position, then feed each BB through the same hole they are fired from at the top of the magazine. Most stick magazines have a enlarged cutout in the follower channel that assists the loading of BBs, but this one doesn’t have that.
On the other hand, there is a loading groove where the BBs enter the mag, and the hole they drop into is slightly funnel-shaped. I guess I should reserve my comments on loading until after I’ve done it a few times.
The sights are fixed, both front and rear. They’re sharp and easy to see, and we’ll learn how close the gun shoots to the point of aim in the accuracy test.
The test pistol weighs 2 lbs. with a CO2 cartridge installed but no BBs in the magazine. That’s slightly heavier than the most common P38 firearm that has an aluminum frame and even heavier than the steel-frame early gun. But it isn’t a heavy handgun. It feels just right to me. The grip is neither too wide nor too narrow for me. Since the firearm has a single-stack 8-round mag, the width of the grip can be controlled by the thickness of the grip panels.
This will be a fun test for us. I just hope it’s as accurate as it looks!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It’s at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through the ’70s.
Today, we’ll learn how accurate a vintage Diana model 25 breakbarrel air rifle, in the form of a Winchester model 425, can be. I have to tell you, days like this are pure candy to me! Shooting a smooth vintage air rifle is so relaxing. Since they’re no longer sold, I don’t have to scramble to shoot my best, because only a collector will ever buy one. On the other hand, these lower-powered spring guns mostly out-shoot the modern guns anyway, at least at short distances, so even shooting relaxed I do pretty well.
We all agreed that the model 25 is a close-range plinker, so I shot from 10 meters. I used a 10-meter pistol bull since I was using the open sights that come with the rifle. By strongly lighting the target and keeping the room I’m shooting in dark, the sights appear sharp against the target. I normally don’t like the German Dachkorn-type front sight, which is a V-shaped post; but under these circumstances, it worked very well. Incidentally, I’ve always referred to this as a Perlkorn; but while researching this report I discovered that the Perlkorn has a bead on top of the tapered post.
Sitting down at the bench to shoot reminded me of just how easy this little rifle is to cock. The barrel goes down butter-smooth, and it takes only about 14 lbs. of force to do it. But when I brought it back up after loading, I discovered that the pivot bolt was a little loose. The barrel wouldn’t stay in one position after the rifle was cocked. It flopped back down again. That’s a sign that the pivot is too loose, which leads to a loss of air at the breech. I decided to tighten it, and that lead me to another wonderful feature of the Diana 25 — the pivot bolt has a locking screw!
The head of the barrel pivot bolt (larger slotted head in the photo) is cut out around its edge to receive the smaller head of the locking screw. Once set, this bolt will not get out of adjustment.
The pivot bolt has cutouts around its edge to accept the head of a smaller locking screw. Once you set the bolt where you want it, put the locking screw in and the setting will never move. This is one of those seemingly insignificant features that we overlooked when rifles like this were new, yet today even the most expensive pellet rifles don’t have it! In fact, a good number of the current guns don’t even have a pivot bolt — they use a plain pin that can never be tightened.
The first pellet I shot was the .22-caliber RWS Superpoint. I mentioned in an earlier report that I like the Superpoint for its thin skirt that gets blown out into the sides of the bore when the rifle fires. Other pellets are either too hard, or their skirts are too thick to deform with the relatively light puff of air from the model 25′s piston. The Superpoint, though, should work well in a gun like this.
The distance was 10 meters and I shot from a rest, so this report is about the rifle’s capability and not the shooter’s. That crisp ball-bearing sear was a real pleasure to use, and I didn’t waste a lot of time setting up each shot.
I used the sights exactly as they were set when I got the rifle. Remember that my friend Mac was the former owner, so it came as no surprise when the pellet landed exactly at the aim point — a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. After seeing the first pellet was where it needed to be, I didn’t look at the target again until the 10th shot had been fired. What I saw then was a surprise — even when I had been expecting good results. Ten RWS Superpoints went into a group that measures 0.613 inches between centers. It’s a one-hole group that looks smaller than it really is because the pointed pellets allowed the paper to return to its normal dimensions after they pass through. This is the same kind of accuracy I used to get from the Hakim trainers at the same 10 meters.
Ten RWS Superpoints made this 0.613-inch group at 10 meters. It’s larger than it looks because the paper flapped back after the pellet passed through.
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. This is another pellet that’s often very good in rifles that shoot at lower power. And by being fairly light, at 11.9 grains, it has the advantage of traveling faster than most other pellets. Ten Hobbys grouped in 0.538 inches between centers. It was another one-hole group. Nothing to do but to smile and hope the rifle continues to shoot like this!
Ten RWS Hobbys are even tighter, making this 0.538-inch group.
The last pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome that weighs 13.4 grains. I hoped that this pellet might shine in the little 25 in the same way the .177 version does in my Beeman R8. Well, shine it did, putting 10 of them into a group that only measures 0.38 inches between centers. Does that explain why I like shooting these little vintage spring guns so much?
The JSB Exact RS dome was the best pellet of all. Ten made this 0.38-inch group at 10 meters.
The Diana breakbarrels all have slanted breech faces; and when the barrel is closed, if the pellet isn’t seated flush all the way around the skirt, it can catch on the action and slightly bend the rim of the skirt when the barrel’s closed. This was happening with all three pellets used in this test. So I shot a fourth group of 10 with the most accurate pellets (JSB Exact RS) seated deep in the breech. I wanted to see what effect this would have, if any.
Because the breech face is slanted, the tip of the pellet skirt sticks out like this when the pellet is seated.
When the breech is closed, this is what happens to the pellet. It doesn’t seem to hurt accuracy.
Seating pellets deep in the breech (JSB Exact RS used) opened the group up and also dropped the point of impact about one inch at 10 meters.
Deep-seating didn’t work this time. The group of 10 JSB Exact RS pellets opened to 0.615 inches. It also dropped the point of impact about one inch at 10 meters. Doesn’t seem like it’s worthwhile.
I sure hope this isn’t the last report I get to do on this air rifle. What a joy it is to shoot something that’s accurate, has a great trigger, is quiet and is easy to cock. I know you have to buy these used, but it’s worth the effort, in my opinion. It doesn’t replace your modern magnum air rifles, but it gives you something to do when you just want to shoot without a lot of fuss. If you’ve enjoyed reading this report, remember that there are three different models of the Diana 25. Only two of them have the ball bearing sear, so be careful when you look for one.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, I want to remind you that there will be at least one more Christmas gift recommendation list coming this week. I read all the comments you made and see that several readers have the same thoughts as I about what stuff would make good gifts.
Today, we’ll begin our look at Hatsan’s model 25 Supercharger breakbarrel air pistol. The pistol I’m testing is serial number 0812 29728 and is in .22 caliber. This pistol also comes in .177 caliber.
My first observation must be that this pistol is certainly priced right! At $130, it’s priced below all the competition — of which there is very little. Given the advertised power — if this pistol can deliver decent accuracy — it will be a best buy!
But you know me. Money means nothing if the gun doesn’t deliver. That’s what this evaluation is all about, isn’t it? So, I’ll put it through its paces to see what kind of pistol you can get at this price.
The breakbarrel pistol is rated to produce 600 f.p.s. in the .22 caliber I’m testing and 700 f.p.s. in .177. That puts it at the top of the spring gun list for power. It has a conventional coiled steel mainspring and a screw-on barrel extension that serves as a cocking aid. Believe me — you’re going to need it because this pistol is a real bear to cock! I’ll tell you how hard it is in Part 2.
The gun is for right-handed shooters, only. The rubberized grips have a raised thumbrest on the left panel, which makes it perfect for righties, but uncomfortable for southpaws.
The pistol has fiberoptic sights, front and rear, and this is one time that I’m glad for them. The sight radius is so long, and I don’t expect the accuracy of the pistol is going to be that of a target gun, so it’s good to have sights that allow you to just point and shoot. I will note that the red tube in front doesn’t gather the light too well, so it will be darker than I would like it to be.
The sights are fully adjustable, and I do mean FULLY. The rear sight adjusts in both directions with crisp detents. The elevation wheel has bold numbers, while the windage adjustment relies on a lined scale to let you know where you are. But it doesn’t end there! The front sight also adjusts for elevation with a wheel of its own! And that, too, has very crisp detents. The owner’s manual shows a 6 o’clock sight picture that’s impossible to achieve with these sights. So, sighting-in the gun and shooting for accuracy should be interesting.
A very short set of parallel 11mm grooves atop the spring cylinder permit the installation of a dot sight. You can mount a scope by selecting an offset mount, such as the one from Leapers.
The pistol has the Quattro trigger, which adjusts for both pull weight and length of travel. The image in the owner’s manual is a generic one, and the screws that are shown are actually in a different place on this pistol — but you get the idea quick enough.
The model 25 is big and heavy. It weighs nearly 4 lbs., which is quite heavy for a handgun. Think about shooting this one with both hands, because you’ll probably have to.
With the grip in your hand, the spring cylinder is over an inch above, which should lead to some interesting recoil. While I don’t normally like to make comparisons between guns, I must say this one does remind me a lot of the Browning 800 Express pistol I tested for you a few years back. The model 25 even has the same recoil-reduction system the Browning has — where the spring cylinder slides on rails built into the lower receiver. But the Quattro trigger and adjustable front sight is found only on the model 25.
This is a big, black spring pistol. There are a lot of synthetics on the outside of the gun, but it all looks tough enough to do the job. It certainly isn’t much different than other synthetic guns these days.
I’ve fired the pistol a couple times so far and noted that it’s hard to cock and the trigger seems pretty good. The breech is very tight, which I think bodes well for accuracy.
The firing behavior is quick and jolting. There’s a definite forward jump when the gun fires.
The pistol is very tight. I can tell it’s going to loosen up a bit after a break-in, but that’s the way it should be.
Discharge noise is low for a spring gun of this power. It’s not quiet, but I think it could certainly be used in a backyard without scaring the neighbors.
Hatsan — forgive me, but…
I just have to say this! When I look at this pistol I cannot help but wonder what a nice carbine it might make. If it were put into a stock with about a 14-inch pull and if the barrel was lengthened with a cocking aid extension to about 16 inches, this might be a wonderful little plinking gun. It has all the power you would ever want in a plinker; and if it was a carbine, I don’t think it would be too difficult to cock for most adults. The rear sight could be moved forward to give the proper eye relief, and I think they would have something pretty special.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Happy Thanksgiving! This is the day Americans set aside to remember the things we’re thankful for as we eat a feast of traditional turkey.
A couple days ago, blog reader Rob asked for my list of most-favorite spring guns and why they’re my favorites, so I thought today would be a good day to do that. So, here goes. I’m doing only the springers, because that’s what he asked for. What you’re about to read is by no means a complete list of airguns that I like.
Diana model 27
I bought my first Diana model 27 air rifle from a pawn shop in Radcliff, Kentucky, when I was stationed at Fort Knox in the 1970s. It was tired-looking and rusty but still shot like every 27 does — smooth and straight. This one was a Hy Score 807. I never tuned it because I didn’t know about such things in those days. I just shot it offhand as a plinker. That rifle cocked so easily that shooting it was like eating peanuts — I just couldn’t stop! I never did figure out the trigger, though. It wasn’t until I read the owner’s manual for a Diana 35 about 20 years later that I figured out how to adjust the trigger on this rifle. Today, I own 2 model 27 rifles and a model 25 rifle that I’ve been testing. And these are some of my favorite airguns.
Because of my involvement with airguns, I’ve owned quite a few target air rifles over the years. There have been some real beauties, including FWB 150 rifles, Diana 75 airguns and Anschütz 250 air rifles. Because I’m always buying and selling, there have been several of each. But the FWB 300S, which I got a couple years ago from my good friend Mac, has come to stay. That’s because it’s the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned. By “most accurate,” I’m being extremely critical. I’m talking about the last thousandth of an inch. I have other 10-meter air rifles that are very accurate — and over the years, I’ve had many more that were also very accurate — but for some reason, this particular rifle is the best one I’ve come across.
Okay, here’s where I’ll have a problem as a writer. I’ve just said the FWB 300S is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned, yet this R8 is a phenomenal shooter, as well. You last saw it in the report titled First shot: Yes or no?, where I fired 10 first shots at 25 yards to see how accurate they would be. But I did a three-part report for you back in 2010, where I showed the rifle to you. This rifle was a special gift that came at a particularly rough time in my life, and just the thought that came with it is enough to make it a favorite. But the way this finely-tuned rifle shoots makes it a keeper on its own merits. It cocks easily and puts each pellet exactly where I want it to go. The Tyrolean stock fits me very well, and I just smile every time I pick this one up. I cannot say enough good things about it. I’ve never even seen a plain Beeman R8 before, so I have no idea if they’re worthwhile or not. All I know is that this tuned one is a keeper!
I bought the Whiscombe air rifle to use as a testbed for airgun articles, and that’s how it’s been used over the years. You’ve seen it several times — most recently in the 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test. Unlike my other favorites, I don’t shoot the Whiscombe that often. The size and weight of the rifle plus the need to cock the underlever three times per shot makes it less than convenient. But I rely on it a lot and would not like to be without it.
Air Arms TX200 Mark III
One spring rifle I own and love that is still available new is a TX200 Mark III. The Air Arms TX200 is simply the finest spring rifle being made today, in my opinion. It’s heavy and can be considered hard to cock; but it has the best trigger on the market, and the rifle is deadly accurate. This is another air rifle I don’t shoot a lot anymore, but that’s because I’m always testing something else. There is no time left to enjoy the stuff I really like. This is the last spring rifle I used for field target competition; and as far as I know, it’s second to none in that capacity. The thing I like best about the TX200 is that I know I can recommend it to someone and they won’t be disappointed. Right out of the box, it shoots like a finely tuned air rifle.
Daisy has changed the name of this BB gun several times over the years, but the Avanti Champion 499 is the gun I’m talking about. It’s a BB gun that can put 10 shots through a quarter-inch hole at the regulation competition distance of five meters — offhand! Like the TX200, the 499 is still available and is one of the best buys in airgundom, in my opinion. Adults can shoot it and have as much fun as the kids for whom it was built.
Air Venturi Bronco
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Air Venturi Bronco on my list. This is a rifle I had a hand in creating, and I did so with the Diana 27 in mind. I wanted a modern rifle that incorporated as many of the 27′s fine features as possible and still held the price low enough to enjoy. The Bronco certainly is that rifle. The two-bladed trigger is especially clever and tells the shooter exactly when the shot is going off. I know some folks don’t like the blonde stock or the Western lines, but I personally like both features. There are too many air rifles with muddy brown stocks on the market, and every one of them seems to have a Monte Carlo comb. But not the Bronco. It’s an individual air rifle that stands on its own.
The one that got away
There’s always at least one, isn’t there? This one came and delighted me while I had it. It’s the Sterling HR-81 that I got in trade at the Roanoke airgun show. It wasn’t working well when I got it, but Vince fixed it for me; and afterward, it was a wonderful shooter. This rifle had sights that were cheap and prone to break, and the ones on my gun were already gone when I got it. But a scope fit well, and the low recoil of the gun made securing it to the rifle an easy task. The trigger is light and (after Vince looked at it) crisp.
The firing behavior is good, though the rifle has a pronounced forward jump. Besides that, the rifle lies dead in the hand when it fires. And the accuracy is quite surprising — fully equal to my Beeman R8. When you cock the underlever, the spring-loaded bolt pops open giving access to the loading trough, making loading very easy and convenient.
What the future holds
I currently have the Falke 90 stock being restored, which will be a blog of its own. If the job turns out well, I can see that rifle becoming a favorite. It started as a gun that was practically forced on me at an airgun show. It was so dog-ugly that despite the extreme rarity (fewer than 200 are believed to have been produced) that even collectors who know very well what it’s worth declined to even make an offer on it when I had it for sale at this year’s Roanoke show. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll have it restored and then we’ll see what people think. Blog reader Kevin turned me on to a wonderful stock restorer who has the entire rifle now. There are a huge number of critical faults with the stock, so he’s really up against it; but if he can do even half of what I see he’s done for other damaged stocks, this project will turn out very well.
What I didn’t include
What about the Beeman R1? I wrote a book about it, for gosh sakes. Surely, it has to be one of my favorites! Sorry to disappoint, but no, it isn’t. I still like it a lot, but it isn’t the gun I pick up when I want to have fun.
What about an HW55? They’re so accurate! Why aren’t they on the list? Don’t know, for sure. They just aren’t.
OMG — I overlooked the FWB 124! No, I didn’t. I thought about it a lot, and it just didn’t make the cut.
Rob asked me for my favorite spring airguns, and I’ve listed them. Maybe I forgot one, but I don’t think so. No, there aren’t any spring-piston pistols that I consider to be favorites.
Among my firearms, I have several rifles that are tackdrivers. Then there’s my dog-ugly, but nearly-new No. 4 Enfield. It’s not super-accurate and certainly no beauty. But for some reason, I can’t bear to part with it. So, it remains in my collection, getting shot once a year or so. Something I can’t define makes it a favorite, and I guess that will just have to suffice.
I have one last thing to say. Two years ago, I was recovering from a serious illness that brought me pretty close to the brink. I still had a drain in my pancreas, and there was an undiscovered hernia festering in me that wouldn’t surface until the night I was due to fly to the 2011 SHOT Show. My eyesight was degraded from dehydration and serious anemia, plus I was suffering from undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes. In short, it was a bad time.
You readers banded together and supported Edith and me for the long months it took to get through this tunnel of horrors. You put up with a lot, and we owe all of you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. For what you all did for us, we are very thankful.