Archive for March 2013

My new AR-15: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today’s report is both an object lesson, and a summary of what we’ve been studying for so long — the fact that ballistics, though often difficult to understand, are also precise and repeatable. It may not sound like that until I summarize at the end; but trust me, this is a lesson for all airgunners.

As the title says, this report is about my new AR-15. If you’re just finding this report for the first time and are interested in the AR, you owe it to yourself to read the first three parts of the report, linked above, before reading today’s message.

It was another very calm day at the range — perfect for testing a little experiment I’d cooked up. As you know, I do not shoot factory ammunition of any kind in my rifle. I did prove that it will function with standard factory 55-grain Remington .223 rounds in the last report, but the accuracy was horrible. I put 10 shots into about three inches at 100 yards. So I use the word “function” here to connote that the rounds fed through the magazine and action smoothly, as designed. I would never consider shooting them, other than for this test!

My load has been a 77-grain pointed bullet and a load of Varget gunpowder. That has demonstrated the ability to put 10 shots into less than one inch at 100 yards on many occasions. But another bullet — a 68-grain Hornady Match hollowpoint — produced the best 10-shot group I ever got with the rifle. It measures 0.562-inches between the centers of the two bullet holes farthest apart.

Group 3 AR-15
Ten bullets went into 0.562 inches at 100 yards.

The experiment
So, I dreamed up a little experiment. I would shoot another group with the same load, only this time I would also do some other things to improve the group. For starters, I would only select cases that had the same headstamp. Different companies make .223 ammunition, and their cases differ a little. Even though they all meet the specifications for the .223 Remington case, there are tiny variations that occur from the differences in the manufacturing processes each company uses. Add in the possibility of different materials at the beginning of the manufacturing process and you get small variations. The specifications allow for this, as long as the gross tolerances and performance specs are satisfied.

AR-15-different headstamps
These cases were picked up off the ground at the range, so they came from several different manufacturers and were made at different times. They’re not uniform at the lowest level.

Reloading cases with different headstamps, therefore, sets up the possibility for small variations in performance. Those differences probably don’t matter to a deer hunter; but to a guy trying to put 10 bullets in the same place, they can matter a lot.

So, I pulled 10 cases with the Federal Cartridge headstamp and set them aside for special treatment. Then, I selected a second lot of Federal cases and put them into a second group. A third group was comprised of cartridges with random headstamps.

Next, I trimmed all the cases to the same length — 1.760 inches. To this point, I hadn’t trimmed a single case, and semiautos like the AR-15 are known for stretching their cases.

Following that, I reamed the inside of the necks of the 10 special FC cases. I then loaded them with the 68-grain bullet and Varget powder that had produced the best group. The other cases I loaded with 77-grain bullets and Reloader-15 powder that has also shown a lot of promise. I wouldn’t call them control groups because they were reloaded with a different charge and bullet, but I was certainly interested in how well they did.

The moment of truth!
After warming the barrel with the 10 mixed cases (which got a 1.225-inch group), I started shooting the select cases with the good bullet and reamed case necks. The second bullet went into the same hole as the first. So did the third. When the fourth bullet enlarged the hole only a little, I suspected I was finally onto something. Shot 5 didn’t seem to make the hole any larger and I almost stopped shooting at that point. Never in my life had I ever put 5 shots from any rifle into 1/8 inch, which was what I estimated this group to be through my 30x scope sight. But fair is fair, so I pulled the trigger on shot 6. It went into the same hole, but enlarged the group noticeably. It was now about 1/4 inch between centers.

I was on a roll, and what a story this was going to make. So I lined up the crosshairs and fired shot 7.

“Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”

[From the poem Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer, 1888]

Shot 7 landed apart from the first six and thumbed its nose at me through my powerful scope. So, I put my head down and finished the group. Two more shots were also apart from the main group and had the ironic audacity to land together, as if to say they were in the right place and all the rest were wrong. And one bullet managed to nick the main group, enlarging it by a considerable amount. In the end, I’d put 10 shots into .859 inches — a decent group; but when compared to the 0.198 inches of the first 5 shots, not that respectable.

AR-15 group made by prepared cartridges
The first 5 rounds went into 0.198 inches at 100 yards. Seven of the 10 shots went into 0.43 inches. But the 10-shot group measures 0.859 inches because of those 3 shots that strayed.

What happened?
Here was yet another group that contained within it a smaller group of respectable size. But why had at least 3 of the 10 bullets gone so far astray? Hadn’t I done everything in my power to make these cases identical and as perfect as possible?

I had to wait till I got home to sort the 30 cases because my eyes were not good enough to discern those with the reamed necks. They were reamed on the inside and now the tiny scratches were filled with burned powder ash. But under the magnifying hood and strong lights at home I found them, one at a time. They all had the tiny scratches from reaming. But there was a problem. There were only 7 cases with the FC headstamp on them. None of the rest of the FC-stamped cases showed the signs of having been reamed. I looked among the odd headstamps, and there I found the remaining 3 reamed cases. Somehow, I’d mixed them up during the reaming operation and the non-FC-stamped cases got mixed in with the others.

Three! An interesting number, because it matches the number of bullet holes that are not in the main group. And that’s today’s lesson. It’s not a lesson about how to do something — it’s a cautionary tale about what not to do. That’s what we learned today. You can’t be too careful when you test things, and you have to check things twice and even three times before you pronounce them as good.

That is what I failed to do this time. And you know what comes next, don’t you? I have to rerun this test and next time make sure everything is done correctly.

I’ll make a prediction. If I do everything correctly as I’ve said here, I predict that this load will be able to put 10 rounds into a group that measures under 1/2 inch at 100 yards.

We shall see.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol: Part 2

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

Part 1

Beeman’s HW 70A breakbarrel spring pistol.

Okay, there’s some interest in this Beeman HW 70A, but many of you have avoided it like I have. Let’s see what it can do.

First, the cocking effort. HW advertises 21 lbs., however the test pistol registered 27 lbs. on my bathroom scale. While that may not sound like a lot, remember this is a close-coupled pistol, so there’s no long lever like you have on a breakbarrel rifle. So, 27 lbs. does feel like a lot.

The trigger-pull, on the other hand, is very light. The test pistol releases at just 2 lbs., 3 ozs. And that’s after I adjusted it to be heavier. I’d gotten it so low that it surprised me when it went off. That felt too dangerous; but where it is now feels pretty good.

Premier 7.9-grain domes
The first pellet to be tested was the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet. It averaged 371 f.p.s., and the spread went from a low of 364 to a high of 381 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates an average 2.43 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

RWS Hobby
Next up was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. As light as they are, I expected Hobbys to be the speed demons of the bunch, but they weren’t. Hobbys averaged just 363 f.p.s., with a spread that went from 354 to 372 f.p.s. At their average velocity, Hobbys produced 2.05 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Beeman H&N Match
The last pellet I tested was the Beeman H&N Match pellet. This wadcutter weighs 8.18 grains and was the heaviest pellet I tested. The average nuzzle velocity was 383 f.p.s. — making this not only the heaviest but also the fastest of the 3 pellets tested. The range went from 371 to 395 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 2.67 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

I was puzzled
After testing these 3 pellets, I was puzzled about the velocity claims of 440 f.p.s. by the manufacturer. I thought that Hobbys would at least get close to that number, but as you can see, they were the slowest pellets of all, not to mention being the lightest. That made me wonder why they would be so slow. It seemed that they were also the pellet with the largest skirt, so maybe the gun was having difficulty overcoming the pellet in the breech. That’s when I thought about deep-seating each pellet with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater to see how it would change — if at all.

Deep-seated Hobbys now averaged 419 f.p.s. and the spread that had been 18 f.p.s. before was now down to just 9 f.p.s. The muzzle energy went up from 2.05 foot-pounds to 2.73 foot-pounds.

H&N Match also increased, but the difference was much less. After deep seating, they averaged 392 f.p.s. and generated 2.79 foot-pounds at the muzzle. The total spread dropped from 24 f.p.s. to just 7 f.p.s.

Even Premier lites increased from 371 to 380 f.p.s., bumping the muzzle energy to 2.53 foot-pounds. And the total spread dropped from 17 f.p.s. to just 8 f.p.s.

Deep-seating seems to help calm this gun down and also to boost velocities. I guess I’ll have to try it when I test the pistol for accuracy, as well.

Impression thus far
Though the velocity seems to be a little low, the firing behavior is smooth and positive. The pistol feels right when it fires, and I think it’s going to turn in some surprising accuracy. But we shall see.

Walther 1250 Dominator PCP air rifle: Part 1

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

Walther 1250 Dominator
Walther 1250 Dominator

“A poor man’s PCP!” That’s what “they” said about the Hämmerli 850 AirMagnum CO2 repeater. It has many of the features shooters were looking for — repeatability, accuracy and a huge number of shots from the 88-gram CO2 cartridge it used. So they called it a poor man’s PCP; and before long, someone converted one from CO2 to air. They liked it that way, and a boutique industry was born.

But Walther, who makes the Hämmerli 850, was paying attention. If people wanted the rifle to use compressed air, they could build the gun that way from the start. The result — today’s test report on the Walther 1250 Dominator.

The rifle
The 1250 Dominator is a bolt-action, 8-shot precharged pneumatic (PCP) repeater. It comes in either .177 or .22 caliber, and I’m testing a .177. The rifle uses a rotary clip to hold the pellets. To remove or install the clip, the bolt is cocked, then the clip retainer is pushed back, and a clip can be installed or removed from the left side of the receiver, only. The owner’s manual calls the clip both a magazine and a drum, interchangeably; but because there’s no spring-assist, it’s just a clip to hold the pellets. One notable feature that differs from almost all other rifles having rotary clips is that the top of this clip lies below the plane of the receiver, allowing one-piece scope rings to be used.

Walther 1250 Dominator PCP air rifle
The clip lies below the plane of the receiver, allowing one-piece scope rings if you prefer them.

I am testing rifle serial number GO39547. It is all black, with matte metal finish and a dark synthetic stock. The stock is hollow, but feels substantial. The butt is padded with a soft rubber pad that prevents the rifle from slipping.

This rifle operates on compressed air, only. Though it’s based on a CO2 rifle, it cannot use CO2 cartridges, nor does it operate on a bulk charge of CO2. The fill level for air is 300 bar (4,350 psi). Those with carbon fiber tanks or special hand pumps will be able to fill the rifle to capacity; but even if you can’t fill to that level, you can still use the rifle. You’ll just get fewer shots, but they’ll still be high-velocity. Does that model number 1250 tell you anything? Walther rates the rifle to 1,250 f.p.s., and we’ll soon see how this one preforms.

The rifle weighs 8.0 lbs. It feels muzzle-heavy when held with the off hand back by the triggerguard. The balance is very conducive to good shooting, and I think it’s going to help a lot.

The trigger is two-stage, and the length of the first stage is adjustable via a screw in front of the trigger blade. The trigger blade is wide plastic with a smooth face. It’s possible to uncock the rifle, but you have to catch the hammer with the bolt as it falls. The automatic safety must be pushed off, and the bolt cannot be all the way back or you can’t get the safety off, so there has to be a little standoff distance. That’s why the bolt has to catch the hammer as it falls.

You might wonder why you would want to uncock the gun, and there are several reasons. One is to test the trigger without discharging the gun. Another is when you wish to remove the clip without firing the rifle. But be careful; because, when you cock the rifle with a loaded clip installed, pushing the bolt forward will push a pellet into the breech! Do that more than one time, and you will double-load the rifle. So, that’s a third reason for wanting to uncock the gun — to remove the loaded clip after inadvertently loading one pellet, so only one pellet is in the barrel — the one the bolt just fed in.

The sights are open front and rear with fiberoptic inserts. Because this is a PCP, I won’t try the open sights in my testing; but if I did, I would light the target to defeat the fiberoptics because they’ll detract from a precise sight picture. The rear sight adjusts for elevation by sliding it up and down an inclined plane. The front sight adjusts for windage by drifting the sight sideways in its dovetail. Remember to move the front sight in the opposite direction than you want the strike of the round to move.

Of course, most owners will mount a scope on this rifle, which is what I plan to do. The 11mm dovetail rail is just over 6 inches long, which is big enough to handle any large scope on the market.

Discharge sound
This is an outdoor air rifle, to be sure. Nothing is held back when it fires. It presents no problem for a person outdoors in a rural place, but you’ll need a large backyard if you don’t want to disturb your neighbors. It isn’t as loud as a .22 short cartridge, but it’ll seem very loud in this day of silenced PCPs.

The barrel is solid and free-floated from the receiver all the way out. That is important for accuracy because the removable reservoir underneath the barrel flexes as the pressure drops during firing.

Not for field target!
There is a rumor floating around that the 1250 Dominator is a good rifle for the sport of field target. Not so! In fact, it would not be legal to use such a powerful air rifle in a field target match. The confusion probably stems from the fact that years ago there was another Walther Dominator that was purpose-built as a field target rifle. That one was a converted Walther 10-meter target rifle whose power was increased to make it competitive. This one would have to be seriously detuned to be used. This is a hunting rifle — pure and simple.

Filling the reservoir
The reservoir is removed from the rifle for filling. And I’m so glad I got to test this gun because I twice discharged the whole fill before remembering how this type of valve works. The manual gives the correct instructions…but whoever reads the manual — until they lose two entire fills?

The trick is to shut off the tank and then unscrew the reservoir without bleeding it. Don’t use the tank’s bleed valve with the tank turned off because the reservoir inlet valve is held open mechanically when the reservoir is screwed in all the way to the fill adapter.

Speaking of the fill adapter, it’s a 300-bar DIN adapter, so you have to have something to screw it into. I was able to screw it directly into my carbon fiber tank valve, but you may not have a 300-bar DIN connection. If you don’t, buy one from Pyramyd Air. The Air Venturi Female DIN Adapter allows you to connect a female Foster quick-disconnect adapter, which many hand pumps come with these days, to the Walther 1250 Dominator fill adapter.

Walther 1250 Dominator precharged pneumatic airgun
The fill adapter screws into a 300-bar DIN adapter. The tank screws onto the other end.

Well, that’s about it for the overview. It’s an interesting PCP; but to hold its own, it’s up against some tough competition. It will all come down to two things — the trigger and, of course, accuracy. And that’s what we’ll evaluate in the tests to come.

How does rifling twist rate affect velocity and/or accuracy? Part 7

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

This is Part 7 in this lengthy test series that looks at the effects of the rifling twist rate on both velocity and accuracy of a pellet rifle. Today, we’ll look at the 1:22 barrel, which means the pellet will turn once in each 22 inches of barrel it traverses. Of course, the Lothar Walther barrel in the .22-caliber AirForce Talon SS rifle I’m using is only 12 inches long, so the pellet doesn’t even turn one time before it leaves the muzzle, but that twist rate sets the pellet in rotational motion as it flies through the air to its target. The rotational speed will be less than what the 1:16 factory barrel imparts, and much less than the 1:12 barrel we have also tested.

Dennis Quackenbush made the two custom barrels I’m testing against the factory barrel with its 1:16 twist. So far, we’ve tested velocities with 2 different pellets at 3 different power settings for all three barrels (see Parts 2 and 3), and I did a short analysis of those tests in Part 4. Then, we tested the accuracy of the custom 1:12 barrel with both pellets at all 3 power settings at 10 meters, and again at 25 yards. Next, we did the same thing with the factory barrel.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the 1:22 barrel with both pellets at all 3 power setting at 10 meters and again at 25 yards. In the next report, I’ll summarize the entire test to this point for you — comparing all 3 barrels for both power and accuracy. After that, I plan on testing all three barrels for accuracy at 50 yards. At that distance, the pellets will be spreading and accuracy benefits should show up vividly.

On to today’s test — the 1:22 twist-rate barrel.

Ten-meter testing

First up was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellet. I had to remove and remount the scope, and the pellets were now striking to the left and low of the bullseye, but I left it there because where the pellets land doesn’t really matter in this test.

Ten pellets made a group that measures 0.258 inches between centers. Besides being tight, it’s a very round group, indicating the pellet likes this twist rate and power setting.

AirForce Talon SS rifle Premiers 10 meters zero power
Ten Premiers on zero power made this nice round group at 10 meters. It measures 0.258 inches between centers.

Next came 15.9-grain JSB Exact pellets on zero power. They also made a round group, but it was larger, at 0.324 inches. This is still a very nice group, but not as nice as the Premier group on the same power setting.

AirForce Talon SS rifle JSB Jumbo 10 meters zero power
Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbos on zero power made this group at 10 meters. It measures 0.324 inches between centers.

Next, the power was dialed up to 6, and I shot a second group of Premiers. This time, the group was wider than it was high and measured 0.293 inches between centers. That’s smaller than the previous group of JSBs but slightly larger than the Premiers on the zero power setting.

AirForce Talon SS rifle Premiers 10 meters 6 power
Ten Premiers on power setting 6 made this group at 10 meters. It’s more horizontal than vertical and measures 0.293 inches between centers.

Following that, I shot 10 JSB Exacts on setting 6. They gave a group that is more vertical and measures 0.309 inches between centers.

AirForce Talon SS rifle JSB Jumbo 10 meters 6 power
Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting 6 made this group at 10 meters. It measures 0.309 inches between centers.

Easy loading
I noticed at this point in the test that both pellets were loading very easy into the breech. I wouldn’t call them loose — just very easy to load.

It was time to dial the power up to 10 and see what happened. Premiers went first, and 10 of them went into 0.288 inches. That’s just slightly larger than the first 10 on zero power.

AirForce Talon SS rifle Premiers 10 meters 10 power
Ten Premiers on power setting 10 made this group at 10 meters. It measures 0.288 inches between centers.

And, finally, I shot 10 JSB Exacts at 10 power. They spread out more than expected, giving a group measuring 0.53 inches at 10 meters. That was by far the largest 10-meter group.

AirForce Talon SS rifle JSB Jumbo 10 meters 10 power
Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting 10 made this group at 10 meters. It measures 0.309 inches between centers and is the largest 10-meter group made by the rifle.

What I see here is that Premiers are very stable in the 1:22 barrel. There is little difference in group size at any power setting. JSB Exacts, on the other hand, get progressively worse as the power increases. If we see this much dispersion at 10 meters the difference should be even more visible at 25 yards.

25-yard testing

First up at 25 yards was the Crosman Premier with the power set to zero. The 10-shot group landed very low on the target paper, and measured 0.671 inches between centers.

AirForce Talon SS rifle Premiers 25 yards zero power
Ten Premiers on power setting zero made this group at 25 yards. It’s very low on the paper and measures 0.671cinches between centers.

Next, I tried 10 JSB Exacts at the zero setting. They were horrible — making a vertical group measuring 1.949 inches between centers. I won’t shoot this pellet at this power at 50 yards because they would go off the paper!

AirForce Talon SS rifle JSB Jumbo 25 yards zero power
Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting zero made this 1.949-inch group at 10 meters. That’s all for this pellet at this power setting.

Next, the power was increased to 6 and Premiers were loaded again. Ten of them made a horizontal group that measures 0.845 inches between centers.

AirForce Talon SS rifle Premiers 25 yards 6 power
Ten Premiers on power setting 6 made this group at 25 yards. It’s horizontal and measures 0.845 inches between centers.

Then it was the JSB pellet’s turn. Ten Exact Jumbos landed in 1.797 inches, which is a little smaller than the group when the power was set to zero. If I try to extend this pellet and power setting out to 50 yards, I’m very likely to get a 7-10-inch group.

AirForce Talon SS rifle JSB Jumbo 25 yards 6 power
Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting 6 made this 1.797-inch group at 10 meters.

Finally it was time to try the pellets on power setting 10. Here they would be traveling their fastest, which means the spin rate would also be highest for this barrel. According to the theory, the groups should get smaller.

Premiers went first, and 10 of them landed in a group measuring 1.082 inches between centers. That’s larger than both groups that went before. Since the velocity increased, the Premiers spread out. Interesting!

AirForce Talon SS rifle Premiers 25 yards 10 power
Ten Premiers on power setting 10 made this group at 25 yards. It’s horizontal and measures 1.082 inches between centers.

Finally, it was time to try the JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting 10. This time the theory did play out as expected, because 10 pellets made a group measuring 1.172 inches between centers. It’s smaller than the group from both of the lower power settings, and those groups decreased in size as the power increased.

AirForce Talon SS rifle JSB Jumbo 25 yards 10 power
Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting 10 made this 1.172-inch group at 10 meters.

Premiers behaved differently than JSB Exact Jumbos in this test. They did not become more accurate as the velocity increased, and I think I can suggest a reason why. JSBs are longer than Premiers. Premiers measure 0.269 inches in length, while JSB Exact Jumbos measure 0.296 inches in length. At their widest, which is the skirt, Premiers are 0.220 inches in diameter, while JSBs are 0.222 inches across. So, JSBs are longer than Premiers, in relation to their diameter, and that makes them harder to stabilize.

AirForce Talon SS rifle 2 pellets
The JSB Exact Jumbo on the left is longer than the Crosman Premier on the right. That makes it harder to stabilize and it needs to spin faster.

That was one of the problems I had with the .22 Hornet centerfire rifle I reported on last week. It shoots its bullets very slow, relative to other .22 centerfires, yet the twist rate is 1:16, where other .22 centerfires are 1:12, or in the very specialized instance of the .223/5.56mm, anywhere from 1:7 to 1:12. That’s why I’ve been writing about these rifles — so we can all gain an appreciation for how twist rates affect accuracy. The .22 Hornet can only do its best with short, fat bullets of relatively light weight. Now, you see the same thing in a pellet rifle.

Today, we see a very dramatic result of how the twist rate affects accuracy. We learned in our test of the smoothbore pellet gun that while a gun may be accurate at 10 meters, it may fall apart at 25 yards. Today, we see that in a rifle that has a very slow twist rate doing the same. If we wanted to use this twist rate, we would need to shoot only very short pellets so they could stabilize. See how it works?

Next, I’ll write up a summary article of the test to this point so we can get a grip on all the data that’s been generated. Of course, it’s all here for you now. All you have to do is go back and look at the results of all the testing to see how the twist rate affects both velocity and accuracy.

Following the summary report, I’ll test all three barrels at 50 yards.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol: Part 1

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

Beeman HW 70A air pistol
Beeman’s HW 70A breakbarrel spring pistol.

I’m about 19 years late on this report. The Beeman HW 70A air pistol was around in 1994 when I started writing about airguns, and I ignored it — finding other guns to occupy my time. I guess there are several reasons for that.

For starters, this pistol always looked large and rough to me. I never saw one of these guns close up in the early days, and I certainly never shot one; but I did see the BSF S-20 pistol that looked for all the world like a small air rifle — cut down and fitted to an outlandish wooden pistol grip. I projected that image onto the HW70, as in the catalog photos it looked very similar.

It was called just the HW 70 back in those days. The “A” designator was added to the model number when they put it into a synthetic black pistol grip that’s on the gun I’m testing for you now. And the size was mostly an illusion. This pistol is similar to a Crosman 2240 rather than the outlandish BSF S-20.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol with BSF S20 and Crosman 2240
Compared to the BSF S-20 (top) and the Crosman 2240 (bottom), the HW 70A doesn’t seem that big.

For those with a real collector bent, the automatic safety was added some time after the A model was already on the market — so the auto safety on the left side of the stock isn’t what makes it an A version. It’s the synthetic stock. There are A-version guns with synthetic stocks and no auto-saftety out there in collectorland, for those who obsess over minutia.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol safety switch
The automatic safety switch is on the left side of the stock.

Another turn-off for me was the anticipated cocking effort such a pistol was sure to require. I imagined cocking it would be like bending the bow of Hercules. I had also thought that about the big BSF and only discovered after getting one that the gun is relatively easy to cock. The HW 70A, on the other hand, does take some muscle power, and that can be attributed to its 6-inch barrel, which is rather short for a breakbarrel springer.

And, finally, I was concerned that the pistol would be very rough to shoot. When I got to shoot the BSF, its smoothness surprised me, but it’s nothing compared to this HW 70A. This is a very smooth air pistol!

Perhaps, that’s because the makers are not trying to send pellets downrange at the speed of light. The velocity specs of the .177 HW 70A have been 440 f.p.s. for as long as I’ve been writing about airguns. What it can really do is something we’ll discover together as I test this gun for you.

I know this — the HW70A is not usually the top air pistol on anyone’s list. Those who want power will gravitate toward the Diana RWS LP8 or the Beeman P1. Others wanting accuracy will go for the Beeman P17 or perhaps the IZH 46M. Almost nobody goes after the HW 70A as a first choice.

The pistol
This is a breakbarrel spring-piston air pistol that comes in .177 caliber, only. It weighs 2 lbs., 6 oz., and the grip is contoured to fit very well in medium to large hands. The grip/stock is black synthetic and checkered on both sides. The triggerguard is molded right into the stock.

Extensive use is made of aluminum in the construction of this pistol. The spring tube and outer barrel jacket are made of it, but the true barrel is a thin steel tube inside the outer jacket. The finish is a dark black epoxy that will fool everyone into thinking it’s black oxide, which is what we commonly call bluing. I only know that from an old Beeman catalog entry.

Most of what the hand touches on this pistol is cold metal, except for the grips. Even the sights that could be made from plastic are metal.

The pistol is very nearly 100 percent ambidextrous. The only feature that favors one side over the other is the safety switch that slides on the left side of the stock.

The barrel is held closed by a ball-bearing detent that allows the barrel to open easier, while still maintaining a tight seal when closed. It’s a classic means of locking the barrel when the pressure level doesn’t go too high.

The trigger is two-stage and adjustable for pull weight. A screw in front of the trigger blade is turned to make the adjustment. It seems like the adjustment acts on a direct sear, apparently decreasing the sear contact area. Even if that’s not the case, though, I was able to adjust the trigger too light for safe operation. The second-stage stop disappeared, and I had a trigger that was guesswork instead of positive; so, I adjusted it back to where it had been from the factory, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

The trigger blade is wide and smooth. It’s made of aluminum, which will appeal to many shooters.

The sights are thankfully NOT fiberoptic! The rear sight is fully adjustable. Elevation has crisp detents, but windage has none, nor is there a scale for reference. You just have to watch where the notch is and where it moves when you adjust it.

The front sight is a very sharp, square post that fits very well into the rear notch. It’s covered by a steel hood to protect the hands when cocking.

The Beeman catalog used to claim this pistol could group 5 shots in 0.32 inches at 10 meters. I’ll test that when we get to the accuracy report. The gun is not scopeable by normal means, but at one time Beeman sold a special model called the Black Arrow that did come scoped. It had a proprietary scope mount that replaced the rear sight, but it’s no longer available.

That doesn’t matter to me because I would only shoot a handgun like this with open sights anyway. But some shooters want to scope even their handguns, so they need to know that this one can’t be scoped.

I’m looking forward to testing this airgun — I have been for nearly two decades. It’s time to hear the fat lady sing!

And now for something completely different
Pyramyd Air is looking for a manager for their tech department. This position was posted on the blog several weeks ago, but they’re still looking. If you’re interested, please apply. Below is the job info and where to send your resume.

Directs and coordinates activities of the department in providing customers technical services and support; directly supervises employees. Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Coordinates technical support services between management, tech support staff, sales department, and customers.

Establishes and documents department procedures and objectives.

Accomplishes department objectives by selecting, orienting, training, assigning, coaching, counseling, and disciplining employees; communicating job expectations; and monitoring performance.

Maintains and improves support operations by monitoring staff and system performance, identifying and resolving problems, and preparing and completing action plans

Provides technical assistance to customers and labor quotes. Handles escalated calls or provides assistance requiring more complex issues.

Installs common accessories and kits in accordance with customer orders.

Performs tests on guns to determine advertised performance specifications.

Required experience, skills and background:

Bachelor’s degree and 3 years managerial experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience required. Previous industry experience required.

Must be detail-oriented with good mechanical aptitude.

Ability to prioritize and multi-task.

Good communication and customer service skills.

Good computer skills.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9am until 5:30pm; longer hours and some Saturdays are expected, especially during our busy peak periods.

Preferred experience, skills and background:

Previous experience in airgun repair or troubleshooting desired.

Send your resume to

My new AR-15: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Before we begin, I have some news about my buddy, Mac. Many of our long time readers know him from the work he’s done on this blog. Mac has been ill for several months and hasn’t been able to go to work for quite a while. He’s getting some medical tests done, but the prognosis doesn’t look real good according to his doctors. Mac and his wife, Elissa, can use your prayers.

Now, on to today’s report.

I was out at the range with my new AR-15 this past Tuesday. For those who aren’t familiar with what I’m doing, this series is about me acquiring a firearm I’m totally unfamiliar with and learning how to use it well. I have to go through the same confusing research on the internet and in magazines as a new airgunner who’s trying to make sense from the conflicting reports he reads about the airguns. Since I’m more familiar with airguns, I thought this unfamiliar firearm would be a way for me to identify with the new airgunner.

Today, the scope of this report expands to include a second rifle — my new Weihrauch HW52 in .22 Hornet. Here’s the situation. This is the fourth .22 Hornet I’ve owned, and my shooting buddy, Otho, has owned about a dozen Hornets in his lifetime. Until now, we’ve been unable to get any of these rifles to shoot. They just will not put even 5 rounds into a group smaller than about 1.5 inches at 100 yards.

Like the AR, I’ve researched the Hornet on the internet and what I found was a lot of people having the same problems we’ve been having. But mixed in with the complaints are a few writers who claim to shoot half-inch groups at the same 100 yards. These guys have given their load data, so it’s been possible (or almost possible — I’ll get to that in a moment) to follow in their footsteps. But in two years, I haven’t been able to get any of my rifles to give me a consistently good group.

You know that my standard for a group is 10 shots — not 5. That’s why I made the remark in yesterday’s report about talking with the guy at the range about group sizes. As I told him, anyone can get lucky and put three bullets close together. Sooner or later it will happen — even with the most inaccurate rifle! I’ve even seen people shoot 10 shots, then circle 3 that are close and call that a group! But to put 10 consecutive shots into a close group is an entirely different matter. A gun that can do that is a gun that can hit where it’s aimed.

So, I was on the range with my HW52 falling block .22 Hornet and a new batch of loads trying, yet again, to put 10 of them into a tight group. This time, however, I made a mistake. I forgot that I’d mounted a new scope on the rifle many weeks ago. After the first fowling shot at a different target, I shot three shots at the 100-yard target and wasn’t able to see the bullet holes. Well, the scope is only 10X, so I can barely see .22 bullet holes at 100 yards anyway. I thought they might have landed on the black lines where they would be impossible to see. But after 3 shots I remembered that the scope was new and I hadn’t boresighted the gun!

Weihrauch 22 Hornet on bench
This was the day I tested my HW52 in .22 Hornet. I was looking for that elusive sub-inch group at 100 yards.

My spotting scope told the whole story. Not wanting to believe my eyes, I walked downrange to look at the target close up. Sure enough, not one bullet had hit the target.

So, a quick bull was placed at the 50-yard berm, and I boresighted the gun (single-shots are often so easy to boresight!).  I proceeded to sight-in with factory ammo. Five shots later, I was close enough to shoot another group of factory ammo at 100 yards. Those five rounds landed in 1.25 inches — a good sign for what was about to happen. I was ready to shoot a real group. But I had only reloaded 10 rounds of the particular load I was interested in, and three had been fired already. So this would have to be a 7-shot group. Oh, well!

Long story short — I had a difficult time believing what happened next. Through the scope that can barely make out the bullet holes, it appeared there were just 2 holes on the target, and one of them was growing slightly larger with every shot. Was I really doing this with a .22 Hornet?

After the final shot I walked downrange again, and this time was rewarded with what I have been seeking since 2009 — a great group with a .22 Hornet. True, it’s only 7 shots instead of 10, but five of those shots have landed in a group measuring 0.296 inches. And all 7 shots made a 0.70-inch group. Compared to all that has gone before — this is real progress!

Want to know what I did that was different? All the research I’ve done has pointed to maximum loads of Lil Gun powder. Everyone says it’s the best for Hornets, but they all specify loads that are compressed. The heaviest load I’ve yet seen was 14 grains of powder — a load I cannot get into a case even when there is no bullet! I’ve tried loads up to 12.5 grains, which is about all the powder I can get into a case and still be able to seat the bullet. Lil Gun generates very low-pressure in a Hornet, making these heavy loads safe; but if you can’t even seat the bullet, it doesn’t make any difference.

This time, I tried going the other way. I used a load that is so light there was room in the case to seat the bullet without compressing the powder. I used 11.5 grains of Lil Gun powder that probably sent the 40-grain bullet downrange at 2,500 f.p.s. or so. But no problem because all the bullets seemed to go to the same place.

Weihrauch 22 Hornet 100-yard group
Finally, a decent group with a Hornet at 100 yards. There are only 7 bullets in this group, and 5 are in 0.296 inches. All 7 make a 0.70-inch group.

I’m not finished, because I need to return to the range with 10 more loaded rounds and shoot a complete group. But things do look promising. If I were a person who likes 5-shot groups, I’d be finished now, and guess which 5 holes I would pick? Do you think they’re representative of the accuracy of this load in this rifle? I don’t. This is a very good load, but those other two holes show a truer picture of what it can do.

The lesson
I swear what I’m about to tell you is true. The only reason I even tried such a low load in this rifle is because of another experience I once had with a .177 Beeman C1 carbine. I couldn’t get it to group, so I held the gun as loosely as I could — just to see how bad it would get. That was the day I discovered the artillery hold. And now I will add this .22 Hornet experience to the pile. Heck, by the time I’m 90, I might actually know something!

The AR
The title of this report says it’s about my new AR-15, and it is. After finishing with the Hornet, I pulled out the black rifle and shot two groups of a promising load. Do you remember that tight group that I shot in the pouring rain last time?

Group 4 AR-15
This 10-shot group was fired during a pouring rainstorm. It measures 0.835 inches between centers.

I had 20 more .223 rounds loaded with the exact same load, so I fired 2 more groups this day. The wind was virtually still, so it was ideal for shooting. The groups are both good, but not quite as good as the one shot weeks ago.

AR-15 first 100-yard group
Ten shots are in 1.340 inches, but 7 of them are in 0.380 inches. Read on to see what I think is happening.

AR-15 second 100-yard group
Here is the second 100-yard group from the AR. The load is identical to the one that shot the first group. This time, the whole group measures 1.081 inches between centers, and 5 of those shots are in a group measuring 0.336 inches.

So, why are these two groups that were shot on a dead-calm dry day so much larger than the group that was shot in a downpour? I have some thoughts about that.

Thoughts about why my groups aren’t better
When I loaded these cartridges, I noticed that several of the primer pockets were very loose. So loose, in fact, that the primers fell out of two of them. But I continued to load them anyway. Want to know how to make a primer expand to fit an enlarged pocket? Just put more pressure on it. It will expand in diameter as you squash it down farther than it wants to go. Think that might have some affect on the group size? It sure will since the priming compound will be crushed and will ignite at a different rate.

And why were my primer pockets so loose? Didn’t I tell you that my reloads created lower pressure than standard factory ammunition? If you look back, you’ll see that I did tell you that. But I don’t know how many times these cases have been reloaded. You see, all my brass thus far has been stuff I picked up at the range! No way to know how many times it’s been reloaded — if any at all.

But the salient fact in that last paragraph is that I’m using range brass. None of the headstamps on my cartridges are the same — or if they are, it’s only by coincidence! It’s as if I were to build a race car with a junkyard motor and then expect to run it in NASCAR. Or, dump a tin of pellets in a sandbox and pick them back out to use in a 10-meter match! In other words, there are a whole raft of things I’m doing wrong with my reloads, and yet they still give me great results. What would happen if I did everything right?

Does this rifle shoot factory ammo?
At least one reader asked me if my AR could shoot factory ammo in the semiautomatic mode because I’ve been loading these cartridges to a length that prevents their cycling through the magazine. I could care less if the gun does or doesn’t cycle, but the question piqued my curiosity enough to put 10 rounds through the rifle just to see. All 10 cycled through the magazine and action perfectly in the semiauto mode, and they all landed in a 3-inch group at 100 yards. Garbage in, garbage out.

This is a very long report, but I wrote it for the new airgunner who feels confounded by all the technology, buzzwords and other stuff that doesn’t make any sense the first time around. If you read all the parts of this report, you’ll see that’s exactly how I felt when I got into ARs. And I hope that by watching me struggle around with this rifle, new airgunners will be encouraged that they’re not alone and that things can be worked out in time.

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Pyramyd Air is running a fun contest on their airgun facebook page: Top Gun Madness. One lucky winner of the contest will get 25,000 Bullsye Bucks, which he can spend like cash on Pyramyd Air’s website. Think of all the stuff you can buy! In order to participate, you must LIKE their facebook page. Good luck!

Are you new to airguns?

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

Today’s report is for those readers who are coming to this blog to find out what airguns are all about. We try to keep things open and free on this blog so you can ask any questions you might have at any time. There’s no need to remain on topic, like many forums demand.

I’m seeing two different types of new readers these days. The first is a shooter with a lot of firearms experience behind him. He knows his way around guns, but he’s heard some interesting things about these modern adult airguns and is curious to learn more.

This person already has a good foundation in the shooting sports, so a lot of things will seem very familiar. He will understand about the effects of weather conditions when shooting. He knows the importance of a good sight picture and trigger control. So he is already well-grounded on the basics, yet there will be some things that completely surprise him.

The other new reader is new to the shooting sports. Maybe he chose airguns as a good entry point for getting into shooting; or maybe, for various reasons, airguns are all he ever wants to shoot. This reader is trying to learn the basics, as well as trying to keep up with the reviews and tests we do.

What can I do? Make things clear
The first thing I can do for both these readers is recognize who they are and try to write to keep them both engaged and interested. That sounds difficult but turns out to be a blessing in disguise because the veteran shooter may understand some things differently than I do.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Yesterday, I was on the range with a shooter I don’t know and we talked about shot groups. He was surprised that I shoot 10-shot groups. He said that he shoots 3-shot groups to determine accuracy. To adjust his scope, he shoots only one shot. He’d never heard of Dr. Joseph Juran’s analogy of the management technique where all changes to a system are based on a single observation.

Chasing the ever-increasing failure rate
Dr Juran developed a short demonstration of the absurdity of using a single data point to make corrections to a system. One person stands on a chair and looks down at a piece of paper on the floor beneath him. There’s a dot on the paper. Looking straight down, the person holds a lead pencil to his nose and drops it, hoping to hit the dot. Another person we’ll call a “data gatherer” then notes how far from the dot the pencil hit the paper and records that information in X-Y coordinates. The paper has a grid pattern on it for this purpose. That information is then given to a group of people in a separate room who use it to prepare instructions for how to move the paper to correct for the error — so the pencil will strike the dot on the next try. Those instructions are then given to another worker, who must follow the instructions exactly to reposition the paper.

This experiment is repeated several times: drop the pencil, note the impact point, prepare the correction instructions and move the paper. After 5 or 6 iterations, the dot has been moved so far from the impact point that it is impossible to even hit the paper with the pencil!

Then the entire group of people is assembled to critique the experiment. They see that by reacting to a single data point, all their corrections did was move the dot farther from where the pencil impacted! For some people, this is a real eye-opener because it flies in the face of what they thought was true.

And, when you adjust your scope based on one pellet hole, that’s exactly what you’re doing — moving the dot based on a single observation.

Dr. Juran used this demonstration in his management classes when he taught the process that is known today as Japanese Management. This lesson is applicable to both the new shooter and the veteran who’s been doing it this way for decades. Even though both shooters are at different levels of experience, they can still be interested in the same things.

Behaviors that are peculiar to airguns
Both shooters can also benefit from learning about things like the artillery hold. What the new shooter learns is obvious, but it’s the veteran shooter who stands to gain the most from this lesson. He’s been holding his firearms tightly all his life, and it’s worked well until now. How is he to know that a lightweight Gamo spring-piston rifle will have to be handled like fresh eggs, if his most recent experience has been with a 7mm Remington Magnum that kicks like crazy? If he were to hold that rifle loosely, it would kick his teeth out! But we all know that the Gamo breakbarrel will not perform unless it’s held softly. So, this is a huge lesson for all new airgunners — experienced or otherwise.

We also know that diabolo pellets are partially stabilized by spin and partially by air drag. We’re currently conducting an investigation to determine what the optimum twist rate of rifling might be. I think we’ll discover that the effects of twist rates vary with velocity, like anything else. And that leads me to my summary comment for today.

Think like a buffalo hunter
I’ve read about the buffalo hunters who operated in the Plains States from around 1872 through 1880. They used single-shot rifles and tried to make each shot count because they were running a business that had very tight margins. Each round of ammunition cost about 25 cents to prepare, and each buffalo taken was worth between $2.50 to $3.00. The runners, as they called themselves, employed a small team of workers that had, as a minimum, a driver, two or more skinners and the hunter. The driver drove the large wagon that carried the buffalo hides, plus he was the cook; the skinners removed and preserved the hides (not much to it, other than scraping the insides and then rolling them very tight); and the hunter scouted the herd the evening before the hunt, reloaded his ammunition then did all the shooting the next day.

The goal of all these people was to make as much money as possible in the shortest time. The work was horrible, long and very tiring. Plus, there was always a threat of Indian attack. The hunter tried to shoot as many animals as his skinners could handle in one day, and he wanted to keep his costs to a minimum. The entire outfit — horses, wagons, equipment and supplies — was provided by the hunter.

The successful buffalo hunter had only one load for his rifle. One bullet, one charge of powder. And his cartridge had to perform well for him to hope to make a profit. That shooter is the one we want to emulate. He didn’t know what a chronograph was, yet his bullets did what they were designed to do and went where he aimed them.

I know there are things other than accuracy. In fact, accuracy is only the beginning. But without it, there can be no beginning, so that’s where I spend most of my time.

Top-notch springer
Air Arms TX200 air rifle

When it comes to spring-piston air rifles, the Air Arms TX200 Mk III is a favorite of many airgunners, including airgun writer Tom Gaylord. His favorite caliber is .177. While the gun will initially impress you with its beauty and superior craftsmanship, you'll be even more impressed with the incredible accuracy! Tom claims this is "the most accurate spring gun below $3,000." Beech or walnut, left-hand or right-hand stock. Isn't it time you got yours?

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