Archive for December 2012

Winchester model 11 16-shot semiautomatic BB pistol: Part 2

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

NOTE: While I’ve been calling this a 16-shot gun, the owner’s manual and Pyramyd Air’s website state that it’s a 15-shot BB gun. I could easily get 16 shots into the mag. Edith informs me that it’s not uncommon for more shots to be loaded in airgun mags and that manufacturers sometimes understate the max rounds you can load.

Part 1

Winchester 16-shot semiautomatic BB pistol
The Winchester semiautomatic BB pistol is an attractive M1911A1-style BB pistol.

Today is the day we look at the velocity of this Winchester 16-shot semiautomatic BB pistol. In Part 1, I looked at the design and noted that this is a realistic BB pistol with some of the controls of the firerarm it copies, but there are differences, as well. The two-hand requirement for the safety was a concern, as were the large number of words printed on both sides of the gun. But the heft and feel were about right. As I told you in Part 1, this gun has blowback, which means that on each shot the slide is blown to the rear by the force of CO2 gas. That cocks the hammer and readies the pistol for the next shot. The inertia of the slide imparts a feeling of recoil than many shooters like, including me.

Blowback allows the slide to cock the hammer automatically, making this BB pistol function like a true semiautomatic handgun. Since the slide cocks the hammer, every shot is single-action, which allows the trigger to be as light and crisp as possible. The cost is that some of the CO2 gas must be used to move the slide, and that subtracts from what is available to shoot BBs. But clever designers can offset this by lowering the velocity of the gun and by minimizing the amount of gas needed to move the slide.

Today’s test will focus on two performance variables — velocity and the number of shots that are available from a 12-gram CO2 cartridge. I’ll make an observation here. Do you remember that I showed you the unique way this pistol pierces its CO2 cartridge? I noticed that there was no hiss of gas when the cartridge was pierced. It may be that this pistol pierces its cartridges more efficiently than most other gas guns and therefore conserves some gas. We shall see in today’s test.

Winchester rates the pistol at 410 f.p.s. That’s on the high side for a BB pistol, so it’ll be interesting to see how many shots I can get from one CO2 cartridge. I tested with Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs, which testing has shown to be the most accurate and most uniform BBs available, short of buying the special Avanti Precision Ground shot. In a semiautomatic BB pistol like this one, the extra precision of that shot would be lost, so the standard Daisy BBs are the best.

Ten shots from a fresh CO2 cartridge averaged 388 f.p.s. I allowed a minimum of 10 seconds between shots to let the pistol recover from the cold CO2. The first shot was 395, and the velocity trailed off with each new shot until shot 5, where I waited 75 seconds after shot 4. Then the velocity rebounded from 384 (for shot 4) to 393 for shot 5. When I resumed shooting with 10-second intervals, the velocity again began to decline until shot 10. Shot 9 was 381 f.p.s., and shot 10 was 383, with about 10 seconds between. That tells me that this (the low 380s) is about where the gun wants to be.

The blowback is very powerful. It certainly feels like a .22 rimfire cartridge being fired in a medium-weight semiauto rimfire pistol, and that’s very good for a CO2 pistol.

Next, I loaded the magazine again and fired 15 quick shots. I waited a couple minutes to let the gun recover from the cold and fired the last shot through the chronograph — hoping to record it. Alas, the shot didn’t register, so I reloaded the magazine and started shooting again. On the third shot into the third magazine, I finally got a velocity reading that was 385 f.p.s. at shot 35, so my guess about where the velocity will be after the gun stabilizes seems to be correct. I finished that magazine and loaded another. The gun had now fired 48 shots on the CO2 cartridge. I reloaded and continued firing.

Shot 60 went 385 f.p.s. Shot 70 went 339 f.p.s. and was definitely falling off the pressure curve. That said, there are 4 good magazines of 16 shots each on a CO2 cartridge. Considering the power the gun delivers and the energetic blowback, I would say this is a very conservative gas pistol!

You can continue to shoot after this, of course, but at some point the velocity will be so low that you risk sticking a BB in the barrel, and that’s what I want to avoid. I also want to note that if you fire the pistol as fast as you can, the velocity drops in a pronounced way that can be discerned without the use of a chronograph. You can actually hear the shots getting weaker.

This pistol has something I haven’t experienced in more than 30 years. The trigger is a M1911A1 trigger instead of a longer 1911 trigger. The difference is in the reach of the trigger finger to the center of the blade. The M1911A1 trigger was developed for soldiers with smaller hands, who would have a more difficult time reaching the trigger when the arched mainspring housing was installed. Today, most 1911s have gone back to the flat mainspring housing and the longer trigger of the earlier model. I find the earlier design points more naturally, although the arched mainspring housing of the 1911A1 was developed especially to resolve the pointing problem.

The trigger-pull is two-stage, and please don’t get that confused with single-action. Stage one is very short and stage two is pleasant, but I can feel it move through the stage. There is no roughness to the pull and the trigger breaks at 4 lbs. on the nose.

The magazine has a large loading hole on the reverse side of the follower slot. It loads one BB at a time but loads very fast that way. I found it quick and easy, and the follower stayed put until I released it.

Winchester 16-shot semiautomatic BB pistol magazine
The back side of the magazine has a large loading hole that makes it easy to load, even if it’s just one BB at a time.

The CO2 cartridge that goes in without a hiss turns out to be a problem to remove on the test pistol. The clearance is just too small, and it takes a lot of fiddling to get out the old one. The new cartridge goes in very easily by comparison.

Evaluation so far
I keep finding things to like and things not to like. This is certainly a different BB pistol. I like how it handles, its power, the good blowback and nice trigger. But I dislike all the words on the gun, the difficulty of removing the CO2 cartridge, the two-handed safety and the fact that not all the controls work like the firearm. I guess it all comes down to accuracy.

How does rifling twist rate affect velocity and/or accuracy? Part 4

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

Announcement: Bill Cardill is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Big Shot of the Week

Bill Cardill is the Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This could also be called the Twist-Rate Test. It’s a look at how different rifling twist rates affect both velocity and accuracy. The standard smallbore airgun twist rate has been one turn in 16 inches for all 4 calibers since the beginning of modern rifled airguns in 1905, and there’s been no published test that looked at any other rate. So, this is a first look at how different twist rates can affect an airgun pellet in flight.

I’ve selected an AirForce Talon SS rifle in .22 caliber as a testbed because changing the barrels is a 5-minute operation. I’m able to shoot every pellet in each barrel using the same basic powerplant. Because the Talon SS has adjustable power, I can adjust the power to different levels for each barrel and pellet and keep the test conditions constant.

A quick look
Today’s report is a summary of what’s been learned so far. I’ve tested the factory barrel and two experimental barrels with different twist rates. The test has been at three different power levels with two different pellets. While that all sounds simple, it gets complex quite fast; and this report is needed to put things into perspective for everyone.

I will not talk about percentages, nor will I show graphs that overlay one barrel against the others because, frankly, I haven’t done enough testing to support such a presentation. In the world of testing, what I’ve done is called a quick look — which means I ran a small test just to see how the data would play out. Any gross trends should be visible, but a lot of the data will remain hidden until more tests are done.

Proof of concept
The easy way to think of this is to think like an experimenter who wants to find out how well something works. Let’s take Melvin Johnson, the inventor of the model 1941 Johnson Automatic Rifle. He had an idea that he wasn’t sure would work, so he spent $300 of his own (borrowed) money to have a machine shop build a testbed. It wasn’t a gun — it was just an action and barrel. He tied it down and fired it from several feet away with a lanyard. All it did was show him that the idea was sound and workable. Today, this is called a proof-of-concept model.

And that’s what our two test barrels are — proof-of-concept barrels. They’ll tell us generally what the two non-standard twist rates (1:12″ and 1:22″) do relative to the factory Lothar Walther barrel that has a 1:16″ twist rate. If the results are wildly different, then we’ll know what direction our next tests should take. But we didn’t get wildly different test results. Let’s see what happened and speculate on what it means.

Two pellets and three power settings
I shot each pellet at three different power settings in each barrel. Before I get into a discussion of how things went, I want to caution you that every time I run this test the numbers are going to be different. You might think if that’s the case then why test at all. Well, although the numbers are different, they are still very close to each other.

So, we’re NOT looking for absolutes in this test. We’re looking for gross TRENDS. And I think we found some!

Fact 1. At power setting zero, the slower twist rate (1:22″) gives faster velocity
This is true for both pellets. As the twist rate slowed down (going from a fast 1:12″ to a slow 1:22″ rate), the average velocity increased EVERY TIME. Premiers went from an average 452 f.p.s. to 534 f.p.s. as the twist rate slowed down. JSB Exact 15.9-grain domes went from an average 434 f.p.s. to an average 521 f.p.s. But the factory barrel generally had the better velocity spreads. Not in all cases, but in most of them. While the factory twist rate is not as fast as a 1:22″ twist on power setting zero, it’s more stable.

This tells us that the faster twist rate does cause the pellet to slow down, as many people predicted. They often call it frictional loss, and I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any.

The other thing I want to say is that the Talon SS isn’t as stable at zero power as it is at higher levels. It wasn’t designed to be run at zero power, even though it is possible. The thinking is that if shooters are running at zero power they are either plinking ot shooting at targets that are very close. Either way, velocity stability doesn’t matter as much as it does on the higher power levels.

Fact 2. The slow twist (1:22″) barrel got to its top velocity earlier than any other barrel
On power setting 6, the slow twist barrel was shooting Premiers at an average 840 f.p.s. The factory barrel was at 818 f.p.s., and the 1:12″ barrel averaged 777 f.p.s. at the same power setting. At their top velocities (only on this test, remember), both other barrels hit just 846 f.p.s. (1:12″) and 849 f.p.s. (factory). The 1:22″ barrel went up to 854 f.p.s.

The same thing happened with the JSB Exact 15.9-grain dome, only the velocities were slower than with the Premiers.

What this tells us is the same thing the first fact told us: As the twist rate slows down, the rifle becomes more efficient.

And that would suggest several things. First and most important, that a slower twist rate will conserve air when all other things remain the same. The fact that I can get nearly the top velocity on power setting 6 means I can get a few extra shots per fill when using the slow-twist barrel.

The second thing is less important, but a slower twist rate will make it possible to achieve higher velocities. The difference, however, is so slight as to be insignificant. Compare 854 f.p.s. — the highest average velocity obtained on power setting 10 (from the 1:22″ barrel) with 846 f.p.s. — with the lowest average velocity obtained on power setting 10 (from the 1:10″ barrel). The difference isn’t worth the effort of getting a special barrel made since the factory barrel gives an average of 849 f.p.s. on setting 10.

Fact 3. The rifle gets the tightest velocity spreads at the highest power setting
This is generally true with all three barrels tested, though there was one anomaly. The 1:22″ barrel did have a tighter velocity spread on setting 6 than on setting 10 when the Premier pellet was tested. But the difference is only 3 f.p.s., and might just as easily have been reversed in a second test.

But the general trend for the velocity spread to tighten as the power is increased held for all three barrels and is probably a trend that will repeat with other pellets and at other power settings.

This trend doesn’t tell us as much about the barrels as it does about the rifle. It indicates that the Talon SS becomes more stable at the higher power settings — regardless of the twist rate. It does, however, make the next fact stand out.

Fact 4. The 1:22″ barrel produced similar power on setting 6 as on setting 10 with JSB pellets
This is the biggest discovery these tests have revealed. On power setting 6, the 15.9-grain JSB Exact domes averaged 817 f.p.s., while on power setting 10 they averaged 815 f.p.s. The velocity spreads for this pellet were 14 f.p.s. on setting 6 and 10 f.p.s. on setting 10. In essence, the power was at its maximum on power setting 6 with this pellet.

With the Premier pellet, the velocity was 840 on setting 6 and 854 on setting 10. And the spreads were 16 f.p.s. and 19 f.p.s., respectively.

So, the Talon SS develops its maximum power with these two pellets around power setting 6 when the 1:22″ barrel is used.

What does it all mean?
Given these gross trends, what can we take away from the testing that has been done to this point — if anything? I think it’s obvious that the gun is more efficient when the 1:22″ barrel is installed. However, I also want to note that all three barrels converged at power setting 10. None of the barrels were superior, as long as that power setting was used. But on power setting 6, the 1:22″ barrel is superior from the standpoint of velocity, alone.

If I can operate the Talon SS on power setting 6 and get max power, then I can probably get a couple more shots per fill of air before the gun falls off the pressure curve. Of course, that’s only speculation until I test it.

But what interests me now is how the rifle will perform on targets with the three barrels. In other words, is there a noticeable accuracy difference with one of the barrels over the other two? Or, conversely, is one of the barrels noticeably less accurate than the other two?

If the 1:22″ barrel were also more accurate than the factory barrel and the 1:12″ barrel, then we would have a great finding. I would also need to test the rifle with heavier and lighter pellets, to see if the trend continued. Or, is the factory barrel with its 1:16″ twist rate the best all-around compromise?

As I said in the beginning of this report, this is a huge test, and one that has never been published before. The goal is to learn more about how the rifling twist rate affects the performance of the pellet. I’m hoping that these trends we see today will continue as the testing continues, and we will at some point be able to make some educated assumptions about airgun barrel twist rates and their association with performance.

Falke 90 test: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Falke 90 restored
Falke 90 underlever rifle is a German spring-piston gun from the early 1950s.

This report is my test of the .22-caliber Falke 90 underlever air rifle I acquired a few years ago. When I got it, the rifle wasn’t working, so blog reader Vince offered to fix it for me. After he finished, he took it to my friend Mac, who tested it. I’ve owned this rifle for several years and never really tested it myself, and I thought it was about time to do so.

I recently had the stock restored by Doug Phillips, who did a wonderful job. Now, I have a nice-looking underlever spring rifle as well as one that works well, so today we’re going to look at its velocity. And we’re going to do more than that because Mac told me some things about the gun that have shaped today’s test. Why don’t I share them with you now?

The Falke 90 is an underlever, which means there is a separate lever to cock the mainspring. In the Falke 90, it’s hidden by the stock — very much like the BSA Airsporter and the Hakim, which are both related to the Falke. All three rifles are loaded through a tap that rotates open automatically when the lever is cocked. That provides a place to drop the pellet, nose-first. Then the tap is manually rotated closed, the pellet aligns with the breech (in front) and the air transfer port (behind the pellet). Let’s talk about that tap for a bit.

Tap alignment
The tap opens by a mechanical projection on the cocking linkage that pushes the tap as it passes it during cocking. I think the remarkable thing is that it stays in adjustment over hundreds of thousands of shots and scores of years of use. My tap is still aligned perfectly, so I don’t have to do anything except drop a pellet nose-first into it and then rotate it closed to align with the barrel.

There can be a problem with a tap, however. The pellet chamber in it can be so exact that pellets don’t fall all the way in when they’re just dropped in. This is what Mac pointed out to me about this rifle. My taploader experience has been with the Hakim rifle, which has a generous pellet chamber and seldom has a problem — unless the pellet skirt is bent. Then, the pellet won’t fall into the tap’s pellet chamber as far as it should; and when you rotate the tap closed, you’ll catch and bend the pellet’s skirt. But the pellet chamber on the Falke 90 tap is very small and may or may not accept the pellet as far as it needs to — to clear the receiver when the tap is rotated closed.

Mac told me to watch for that problem and to make sure each pellet made it into the pellet chamber as far as it needed for clearance. He advised me to use an instrument to push each pellet as far into the tap chamber as it would go — thus clearing the skirt when the tap rotated closed.

Falke 90 pellet in tap not seated
This pellet was dropped into the tap and failed to enter the pellet chamber far enough to clear the end of the pellet skirt when the tap is closed.

Falke 90 pellet in tap seated
Here the pellet has been pushed into the tap as far as it will go. This pellet will easily clear the gun when the tap is closed.

This tap business got me wondering about the affect on velocity. Would a deep-seated pellet be better (faster and more consistent), or would a pellet that has just been dropped into the tap do better? I’m sure you can come to your conclusions quickly enough, so let’s test a couple pellets and see what really happens.

RWS Superpoints
I began shooting RWS Superpoints when I got my first Hakim. They seemed like the perfect pellet for that rifle because they have thin skirts that will flare out from a smaller blast of air and also because they just dropped deeply into the Hakim tap. Other pellets were too small for the Hakim tap and failed to produce adequate velocity because much of the air compressed by the piston slipped past them in the barrel.

In the Falke 90, however, it’s a different story. The pellet chamber in the loading tap is very small, and Superpoints do not usually drop in far enough to close the tap. Many of them need to be seated mechanically. So, I tested them two ways. First, as just dropped in but not pushed deep and second as pushed into the tap as deep as they would go.

Very few of the pellets fell into the tap deep enough by themselves to close the tap, so even in the first test there was some pushing that had to take place. Perhaps 6 pellets had to be pushed into the tap a little while 4 fell in deep enough on their own. This string of what I’m calling unseated pellets averaged 476 f.p.s. and ranged from 465 to 484 f.p.s. That is a spread of 19 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet and loading method generated 7.3 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Next, I tried pushing the pellets into the tap as deep as they would go. Now, I bet you think they’re going to go faster than the unseated pellets. Right? Well, they did one foot-per-second faster! Yes, the average for seated pellets was 477 f.p.s., and the spread went from 461 to 493 f.p.s. So the range was 32 f.p.s. And the average muzzle energy was 7.33 foot-pounds. Not much difference, is there?

JSB Exact RS pellets
The other pellet I tried was the lighter JSB Exact RS pellet, which in .22 caliber weighs 13.4 grains. This is a pure lead pellet, like the Superpoint, and it also has a thin skirt. But the Exact pellet is smaller than the Superpoint. These pellets fell into the tap far enough to close without any damage every time.

On the first test, where the pellet was just dropped in, the Exact RS averaged 453 f.p.s. The range went from 445 to 463, so a spread of 18 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 6.11 foot-pounds. And no mechanical seating was necessary.

On the second test, where the pellet was pushed into the tap as far as it would go, this pellet averaged 457 f.p.s., but the spread was much larger — ranging from a low of 448 to a high of 484 f.p.s. So, the velocity varied by 36 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 6.22 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

What do these numbers tell us about the rifle?
For starters, I hope you realize that this was not a normal velocity test that produced standard numbers. The way the pellet fits the loading tap has a tremendous effect on the outcome. I believe that will probably carry over into the accuracy test, as well, so I wanted to try one more test. What would happen if I flared the skirts of every pellet before loading it into the tap, and then I pushed each pellet to the bottom of the tap? Wouldn’t that give me the best sealing of the pellet to the bore? Mac thought it would. But only one way to know for sure. I had to test it. And I decided to test both pellets, as I could see no compelling reason to choose one over the other.

RWS Superpoints flared and deep-seated
Superpoints averaged 474 f.p.s. when their skirts were flared, and they were then seated as deep as they would go into the tap. That puts them in about the same place as the pellets that were just dropped into the tap and those that were intentionally seated deep. But here’s where it gets interesting. The range went from a low of 464 f.p.s. to a high of 504 f.p.s. I’m not looking at the 40 foot per second velocity spread as much as I am the four pellets that topped 490 f.p.s. Clearly, flaring the skirts has an effect, but I must not have done it uniformly enough to make a difference.

JSB Exact RS pellets flared and deep-seated
The JSB Exact RS pellets are more flared to begin with. Even though their skirts are not quite as wide as those on the Superpoints, they lend themselves to flaring much better. These pellets averaged 487 f.p.s., which is a 20 f.p.s. increase over just seating the unflared pellets deeply. The range went from a low of 465 f.p.s. to a high of 501 f.p.s. Four pellets were at or above 500 f.p.s. Again, there must have been some inconsistency in the flaring, but the RS pellets did seem to respond better to the process.

Normally, I report on the trigger-pull in the velocity report, but I’m not going to do that today. The Falke 90 has an adjustable trigger that works on the sear contact area; and during the test, the trigger-pull went from being very light to not staying cocked. So I adjusted it heavy for safety’s sake. A taploader is safe because, until the loading tap is aligned with the bore, the pellet will not move; so when the gun fired on its own several times, there was no problem. But if I were to adjust it to a light pull, I might then close the tap before the gun is on target — and that’s dangerous if the gun then fires on its own! So, I’ll adopt a procedure with this rifle of not closing the tap until the sights are on target.

I’m also having difficulty with the trigger because the trigger return spring isn’t sufficient to push the trigger blade into lockup with the sear. When I cock the rifle, I also have to push the trigger blade forward to engage the safety. That may be because the new wood is a little tight in the trigger region. It’s something I need to look at.

The rifle is shooting well thus far, with the exceptions noted. The next report will be accuracy, and for that Mac has set the bar very high.

Top 10 reasons why I’m an airgunner

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

10. Cost
Airguns cost less to shoot. A tin of pellets costs less than any firearm ammunition I can buy or reload. Even the premium pellets cost less than the run-of-the-mill .22 rimfire ammo that I don’t buy because it isn’t worth the money. I don’t shoot for the recoil, the smell or for the sound. I shoot to hit what I aim at. With a pellet gun, I can afford to do that as often as I like.

9. Human scale
Dr. Beeman coined this term. It means the gun is scaled to contemporary life and can be used without major disruption. A .50-caliber Browning Machine Gun (BMG) round is accurate and reliable — but try finding a place to shoot one! I can shoot a pellet rifle or pistol in my house. Indeed, 90 percent of my airgun shooting is inside my home.

8. Airguns can be gunsmithed by their owners
Not many of us can exchange barrels on a 98 Mauser, or headspace a Sako Vixen. But with the right training, anyone can safely tune a spring rifle in their home. Or reseal a CO2 gun. Or modify a precharged pneumatic! Indeed, many airguns are designed with those goals in mind. You can change barrels and calibers in an AirForce Talon SS in 5 minutes. A few firearms are designed for barrel and cartridge swaps; but compared to airguns, the choices are limited.

7. I can shoot more
Besides cost, the fact that many airguns are quiet and relatively safe allows me to shoot in my home. I get to the rifle range about 4 times a month. On the average trip, I fire between 40 and 200 rounds of ammo. I do that in my house about every two or three days. So, I shoot from 5 to 10 times more often with an airgun than I do a firearm.

6. Safety
Airguns are safer than firearms. They don’t have internal pressures that are nearly as high, their projectiles don’t go as fast and they certainly don’t go as far. When a bullet ricochets, it can go a long way. When a pellet ricochets, its range is very limited. I’m not saying that airguns aren’t dangerous, but they’re far less so than firearms. When there’s an incident, it has fewer and less catastrophic consequences.

5. I can afford to own the best
The best spring rifle available today is the Air Arms TX200, and it costs $600. You can argue about what the best firearm rifle is, but whether you go for a Blaser, a Steyr, a Sako or a Dakota, you’ll be shelling out anywhere from $1,100 to $6,000 for the entry-level model. A TX200 might be a stretch, but the firearms represent such a leap that they impact the budget for a long time. The TX200 is hands-down the best of its kind. One of the rifles I mentioned is still arguably no more accurate or powerful than a more common gun costing a fraction as much.

4. I can collect more
An FWB 124 in pristine condition in the box can still be bought for $600. A pre-’64 Winchester model 70 in the same shape will cost you thousands. My Falke 90 is one of fewer than 200 such guns known to exist. A Winchester One-of-One-Thousand that exists in greater numbers costs six figures every time! Yes, my comparisons are lopsided, but think about what they mean. You probably can’t afford to buy a Colt first generation single-action in 90 percent condition, but you can afford a Sheridan Model A (Supergrade) in the same shape. Airguns that are vintage and rare simply do not command the money that firearms do. Colt Pythons are bringing $1,500 these days, while Hakims that are far rarer will fetch $400.

3. Range requirements
Even a lowly .22 rimfire needs at least enough distance that the lead doesn’t splatter back on the shooter. But in World War II, a German submarine captain had a BB pistol in his cabin. I don’t know if you’ve ever been aboard a World War II submarine, but it doesn’t offer a lot of room to shoot. A Class A motorhome is a mansion by comparison. Airguns can be shot with very limited range conditions.

2. Noise
When I go to the rifle range, I have to wear hearing protection all the time. Maybe I’m only shooting a .22 rimfire — that doesn’t stop the guy next to me from shooting his .300 Win. Mag! But any smallbore airgun, even the really loud ones like the Condor or the Evanix Windy City, still aren’t as loud as my .22. So, if I shoot alone with my smallbore airguns, I don’t need hearing protection.

1. Accuracy
I have to pay a lot to get an accurate firearm, but an accurate airgun can be very cheap. The $35 cost of a Beeman P17 is a trifling compared to what it costs to get an accurate M1911A1 pistol. And then I can shoot the air pistol for a lot less money than the firearm, which means a lot more shooting. Sure, airguns don’t shoot accurately at the far distances firearms do, but that gets us back to human scale.

Too much jargon in airgunning?

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

Merry Christmas from Edith and me!

FOR SALE: M-ROD .25 with super-fine LDC. Has HDD and is as quiet as an incontinent mouse. Shoots MOA all day. Great for backyard safaris. Check me out on the BOI, where I go by Stinky.


If you understood any of that, you’ve spent too much time reading about airguns on the internet and far too little time shooting them. Yes, it all has meaning, but that’s my point today. It shouldn’t.

I think we use far too much jargon in out hobby; and as a result, we turn off newcomers, who feel they can never understand what the insiders are saying. I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own. I received a Christmas present of a book about the AR-15 rifle, and I’m darned if I understand half of what’s in it! And I have five decades of shooting experience behind me. I used to own an arms room with 110 M16 rifles, among other things, and I still don’t know the inside jokes, references and jargon bantered about by today’s AR enthusiast.

And here’s the sad part — I asked for this book specifically to learn about ARs because, when I went online, I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying. How bad is it when the book that’s supposed to decipher the code is written in the same code?

A long time ago, I learned a very important life lesson. If I don’t understand something after giving it my best effort, the likelihood is that nobody else understands it, either. But nobody wants to say anything because they think they’re the only ones who cannot see the emperor’s fine new clothes. Once one person opens up and reveals his lack of understanding, the entire facade usually melts away and everyone realizes that the whole thing was confusing to everyone. But nobody wants to be that first person for fear it’s really something everyone else understands.

This is especially important to writers — or at least it should be. We should never take for granted that our readers all understand what things like shrouds and double-action-only actions mean. We should always give either an explanation of the term, or at least enough contextual clues so the reader can puzzle things out. A shrouded barrel is one in which the true barrel is contained within an outer jacket that contains the air blast and attenuates the muzzle report. That makes a shroud a type of silencer, and we can either explain that fact, or make reference to how quiet the gun is when it fires because of the shroud. There need to be multiple ways of revealing things, or the writing soon becomes boring and starts reading like an owner’s manual.

When I make reference to double-action triggers, I find that a significant percentage of my readers do not fully understand what that term means. Even the longtime veteran shooters sometimes don’t know. When that happens, it doesn’t get fixed with context. It needs an entire blog to clear up the mystery, and I discover quite a lot of folks are relieved by learning the meaning of the term.

Can the blog also explore advanced topics?
If every report has to explain everything, is it possible to delve into a more technical topic and examine it thoroughly? I think it is, but what has to happen is the topic must be fully developed with the explanatory info either all up front or explained as we go. Just to pick one example, we’re now looking into the effects of the rifling twist rate on accuracy and velocity. So far, I’ve written three reports that each look at one twist rate from the standpoint of velocity. Nobody has complained (in the comments, at least) that the information is too simple. In fact, just the opposite. Readers have noted that the test data are difficult to understand, which forces me to write a special fourth report that analyzes the results of the first three tests.

By the time this test is complete, we’ll have explored a topic that has never before been documented in print — namely, the effects of the rifling twist rate on diabolo pellets in an airgun. I have already seen several comments that say, in essence, “Surely airgun manufacturers have conducted their own tests to determine the optimum twist rates for the guns they make.” Since all four smallbore airgun calibers have had the identical twist rate for over a century, I think it’s pretty obvious they haven’t. Either that or the twist rate doesn’t have much of an affect on a diabolo pellet, and they have each quietly discovered this fact. Either way, we’re going to explore the topic and do so without resorting to insider jargon or offhand references to “facts” that “everybody knows.” In short, you can learn about airguns without the need to know a lot about the shooting sports. You’ll need to pay attention and give some thought to what you read, but nobody will be excluded from the discussion.

Other things
This is also why I write the way that I do. It would be so much easier for me to just write, “a 0.50-inch group,” but I always want to explain that the group was measured between the centers of the two holes that are farthest apart. And I’m certainly not going to refer to accuracy potential as “1 moa,” the way they do on the forums! That just gets too confusing for some people.

I also refuse to obfuscate or misdirect in my writing. So, while many airgunners call them Lead Dust Collectors or just LDC (with an implied wink), I will refer to them as silencers because that’s what they are.

There used to be a column in Guns & Ammo (I think) called Pinwheels and Fliers. How many people today would even know what that means? I remember having to write an entire report on what fliers are because there are so many interpretations.

Sloppy terminology
I have been talking about the jargon we use to discuss our hobby among friends. But there’s another language problem, and that one is using words correctly. Don’t say that you are “patterning” a rifle when you are shooting groups. Patterns are the hits from shotguns, recorded on paper. Groups are shots fired using a single projectile from either a long gun or a handgun.

And metal is engraved, but wood is usually carved. Only when a machine like a laser engraver is used can the wood be said to be engraved.

The word rifling is singular, even though it describes multiple lands and grooves in a barrel. So there aren’t rifling(s).

One term that confuses even me is scope mount. There are scope bases and scope rings, and sometimes they are combined. When they are, I use the term mounts to describe them. And how do you differentiate the prepared “base” that’s already on a rifle from the scope “base” you had to buy and install yourself? This is where our hobby gets tricky.

What we got for Christmas
Okay, enough with the rant. What did Santa bring this year?

Actually, this year I didn’t get any guns, which is pretty unusual. But Edith got one! It’s more of a gag gift, and the story is interesting.

Edith wasn’t much of a gun nut before she married me. But after we were were married, she got on board with firearms and especially airguns, starting with the Sheridan Blue Streak I gave her that she used to kill mice and rats prowling our garden. Well, one airgun she became familiar with was the Schimel — a single-shot CO2 pistol that’s built in the style of the German Luger. So, since she knew the Schimel before the Luger, whenever she sees a Luger at a gun show or in a movie she always says, “Look — a Schimel!”

I tested a Schimel for The Airgun Letter back when we published it, so Edith actually knows the Schimel much better than she does the Luger. When I saw a Schimel on a dealer’s table at a local gun show a couple months ago, I bought it for her. It’s going into a shadow box on the wall of her office, so she’ll always have her Schimel.

Schimel CO2 pistol
The Schimel GP22 is a single-shot .22-caliber pellet pistol that’s the size and weight of a Luger. The toggle link on top lifts up to load the pellet.

Translating the opening
What the person was trying to say in the beginning of this blog is they want to sell a Benjamin Marauder in .25 caliber. It has a silencer and a hammer debounce device, so it’s very quiet when it shoots. It’s capable of shooting half-inch groups at 50 yards and also great for shooting in the backyard, because it doesn’t disturb the neighbors. “Stinky” wants you to know that he has a good reputation on the Yellow Forum Board of Inquiry for being a fair and honest dealer.

Merry Christmas!

Diana 25 air rifle: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Diana 25 air rifle
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It is at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through the ’70s.

On Friday, I tested the Chinese Fast Deer sidelever rifle at 25 yards, and in doing so I started the juices flowing again for the vintage airguns. One remark I made in the report was that I thought the Fast Deer might be more accurate if I fitted a peep sight in place of the open sights that are on it now. That got me thinking about other low-powered spring guns I’ve recently tested — including the Winchester 425, which is a Diana 25 by another name.

I tested the 425 at 10 meters because it has open sights and also because of the low power level. It’s a .22-caliber spring rifle that shoots in the low- to mid-400s, and long-range accuracy is not its strong suit. But after seeing the Fast Deer perform, I began to wonder how the 425 might do if I tried it with a peep sight. Kevin recommended trying it, and I was happy to take his suggestion. We always talk about how peep sights improve the aiming situation, so a peep sight ought to have some impact on even a rifle like this one.

As it happens, I have a peep sight that attaches to the rear sight base on many vintage Diana air rifles, including this 425, so it was easy to remove the open rear sight and attach the peep. I left the open sight in place until the peep was firmly anchored to the base, then I looked through the peep and adjusted it until the open sight picture looked perfect through the peephole. That told me the peep was looking at the same place as the open sight, so no special sight-in procedure was required.

Diana 25 peep sight
The Diana peep sight fits the model 25 as well as many of the larger models. It looks simple but delivers on target!

The Diana peep sight is vintage and appears less sophisticated than the target peeps we see today; but when you use it, you soon learn that it’s as nice as any of them. It has crisp detents with very visible scales for both adjustments plus the directions are also on the adjustment knobs. They’re in German, though, so they’re the reverse of American adjustments. The sight sits low on the spring tube and is shaped to conform to the contours of all Diana rifles, so there’s very little clearance between the sight and the gun. The sight does extend back, which is helpful, but as small as the 425 is, I still found it difficult to get as close to the eyepiece as I would have liked. That’s because the stock’s pull is a sporting length instead of a target length that would be several inches shorter.

JSB Exact RS
Since JSB Exact RS domes had proved to be very good at 10 meters, they were the first pellet I tried at 25 yards. I trusted that the pellet would go to the point of aim and it did. The first shot was right on target, but there was a small problem because I was trying to use 10-meter rifle targets and the bull is too small for me at 25 yards. So, I replaced the target with a 10-meter pistol target and afterward everything was fine.

The first group of 10 pellets measures 1.059 inches between centers. Now, that sounds like a big group; but if you look at the target, I think you’ll see that it really isn’t so bad. Seven of the 10 pellets landed in 0.545 inches and that’s good.

Diana 25 RS target
The JSB Exact RS pellet made a large group, but there’s a much smaller group within. This shows promise.

RWS Superdomes
Another pellet that did relatively well in the 10-meter test was the RWS Superdome. And this is where the difference between 10 meters (11 yards) and 25 yards really shows! Ten Superdomes went into 1.349 inches, and the group appears scattered left and right. This is not a pellet I’d use in this rifle at this distance.

Diana 25 Superdome target
RWS Superdomes were generally scattered left and right. Not a pellet to pursue.

Here is another example of why a 10-shot group is so much more valuable than several 5-shot groups. You could get lucky with several 5-shot groups and never know how well the rifle really shoots, but a single 10-shot group tells the tale very clearly. In the end, it saves time and pellets.

Notice that Superdomes struck the target lower than the JSB RS that preceeded them. So, I adjusted the rear sight to hit higher on the target following this test.

JSB Exact 14.3-grain domes
Next, I tried some JSB Exact Jumbo Express 14.3-grain domes. Since the RS pellets had done so well, I thought these might do well, too, even thought this pellet has disappointed me very often in the past. For some reason, the RS and 15.9-grain pellets shoot rings around this one, and I don’t quite know why.

The Diana 25 doesn’t like them, either. Though the group is well-rounded, the shots seem scattered within it. The group measures 1.288inches between centers and there is nothing to give much hope of any better performance.

Diana 25 JSB Jumbo Express target
JSB Jumbo Express group is even more scattered than the one made by the Superdomes. Another pellet to remove from the list.

At this point in the test, I was starting to lose confidence in the rifle. True, the RS pellets had shown some promise and deserved another chance, but instead I had a thought. What about Crosman Premiers? I normally don’t shoot Premiers in vintage Dianas because I like to use only pure lead pellets, but it sounded like it was worth a try.

The pellets loaded snugly into the breech, but they weren’t quite what I would call tight. The firing behavior, though, was quite different from all the other pellets I’d shot in the gun. It was harsh and a bit buzzy, which tells me the powerplant isn’t being cushioned sufficiently by this pellet.

Down at the target, though, the story was quite different. Premiers made the second-tightest group of the test and were so good that they looked like they warranted a test all their own. The vertical dispersion was 1.09 inches between centers, which is slightly larger than the group made by the JSB RS pellets. The lateral dispersion was only 0.491 inches! And the group was way below the bull, meaning that this pellet dropped many inches from the impact point of all the others. In fact, I’m not certain that all 10 shots landed on the paper because the ragged hole they tore doesn’t tell me how many pellets passed through. It just looks like they all went there.

Diana 25 Crosman Premier target
Crosman Premiers also made a large group, but they were tight side-to-side. This is a pellet to consider further! Sideways dispersion is the gun’s fault. Vertical error is more of an aiming issue or perhaps a wild velocity variation.

Premiers struck the target much lower than the JSB pellets before them, so the feeling upon firing is also evidenced in the velocity. Remember, I’d already adjusted the rear sight higher to compensate for the Superdomes, so this second adjustment jacked it up a lot from where we started.

Observation thus far
The addition of a peep sight to the Winchester 425 was a great idea. It took an accurate and easy-shooting rifle and stretched the useful range many times. I don’t know that a scope would give results that are any better, though it might be fun to try!

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 4


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

Announcement: Bill Cardill is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Big Shot of the Week

Bill Cardill is the Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
This same scenario will be repeated in countless homes this coming Christmas!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

This is a fourth look at the intriguing KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever from China. We saw some pretty good 10-meter results in Part 3, and I said I’d be back to expand on that. I didn’t mention a scope was coming in part 4, but that’s what I had in mind. However, when it came time to shoot the gun, I decided to see how well I could do with the same open sights I used last time.

Today, I backed up to 25 yards which always reveals things that were perhaps masked when I shot at 10 meters. Twenty-five yards is a middle distance for a spring gun — at least for one in this power range — and you can count on the shots opening up.

The first thing I noticed right away was that heavy trigger! I’d forgotten about it. I don’t think it disturbed my accuracy, since I shot from a rest, but neither did it enhance my shooting.

The second thing I noticed was the size of the rifle’s breech. Three times in 55 shots the pellet fell out, and I didn’t notice it. The result was always a surprising detonation, and once I found a squashed pellet still in the receiver, where the sliding compression chamber had flattened it.

Other than those two distractions, the Fast Deer is a nice rifle. The stock is the right length and size, and everything fits me quite well. If I could mount a peep sight on the gun, I think it would be just about perfect. In fact, I’m going to look into the possibility of doing just that!

RWS Hobbys
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby that did so well at 10 meters. After confirming they were still on target at 25 yards with the same sight setting as 10 meters, I stopped looking through the spotting scope and just shot the group. But Hobbys didn’t do so well at 25 yards. Ten of them made a group that measures 1.918 inches between centers. As you can see, the shots are scattered and show no tendency to go anywhere, in particular. I noted that Hobbys were loose in the breech. Also, the Hobby is a wadcutter pellet, and wadcutter accuracy usually starts falling off around 25 yards.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Hobby group
Ten RWS Hobbys made this 1.918-inch group at 25 yards.

Baracuda Green
The next pellet I tried was that remarkable lead-free dome, the H&N Baracuda Green. They’ve surprised me on more than one occasion, and they looked good at 10 meters in the Fast Deer. At 25 yards, they were a little better than the Hobbys, but not that much better. Ten of them made a group that measures 1.815 inches between centers. The Baracuda Greens fit the breech rather well.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Baracuda Green group
H&N Baracuda Greens were slightly better than Hobbys, but not much. Ten went into 1.815 inches.

JSB Exact RS
I tried JSB Exact RS pellets next, and I got an interesting result. First of all, this was one of the pellets that fell out of the breech. When I tried to compensate for the lost rounds, I shot 11 rounds instead of 10. The entire group was large, at 1.918 inches between centers. Before you comment, I’m aware that’s exactly the same as the RWS Hobby group, but please remember that there’s always a built-in margin of error when measuring these groups. So, they probably aren’t exactly the same size — that’s just how it looked to me.

The interesting result was that 6 of the 11 shots were in a smaller group that measures 0.475 inches between centers. That hints that this pellet might actually be the best one for this rifle, though the overall group doesn’t show it.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle JSB Exact RS group
This group of 11 JSB Exact RS pellets is large, at 1.918 inches between centers; but within it, 6 pellets are grouped in just 0.475 inches.

Beeman Kodiak
Next I tried the heavyweight Beeman Kodiak pellet. Although many would not try it in a rifle as low-powered as the Fast Deer, I’ve often found that Kodiaks are some of the most accurate pellets in lower-powered spring guns. Not this time, however. Ten went into a group that measures 2.134 inches between centers. That was the largest group of the test.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Beeman Kodiak group
Beeman Kodiaks didn’t do so well in the Fast Deer. Ten went into 2.134 inches — the only pellet to go over the two-inch group size.

Air Arms Falcon
The final pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon. These are made by JSB; and, often, if other JSB pellets do well, these will, too. Ten Falcons made a group that measures 1.497 inches between centers. It’s the smallest group of the test, though it doesn’t have the same tantalizing group-within-a-group that the JSB Exact RS pellets had.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Air Arms Falcon group
Air Arms Falcons made the smallest group of the test, with 10 going into 1.497 inches at 25 yards. They also hold some promise for greater accuracy if the sighting was more precise.

Overall evaluation
I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential of the Fast Deer, yet. The groups from the JSB Exact RS and Air Arms Falcons seem to promise a higher lever of accuracy if things were somehow different. I’m going to think about that for a while and see what I can do about it. Yes, I think there will be a Part 5 of this report at some point.

One thing is very interesting and that is what the 25-yard shooting and 10-shot groups have taught us about this rifle. Some things to think about in the future are better sighting possibilities and perhaps expanding the skirts of the two most accurate pellets — to see if that has any bearing on the outcome.

Swiss Arms P92 replica pistol
Swiss Arms P92 CO2 BB pistol

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