Archive for December 2013

Building the $100 precharged pneumatic air rifle: Part 1

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

Airgun manufacturers: If you read this blog, today’s report is one you’ll want to pay attention to! When I announced last Friday that I would be writing this, I received more interest than any subject that’s ever been raised on this blog. That makes this a subject of primary importance to anyone who wants to know what the consumer wants.

Blog readers: Many of you have not read or perhaps not understood all that I’ve said about this project. I am therefore going to explain it now in clear terms, so that everybody will know what I’m talking about. This project is a proof of concept. It is not a new airgun that’s about to be built. I don’t know if it will ever be made; and if it is, it probably won’t look like what you’re about to see. This is a single airgun that incorporates the features I’ve envisioned in a PCP that could retail for less than $100. A lot less, if you follow carefully.

The base gun used as the starting point for the project is a Crosman 2100B. That’s a multi-pump pneumatic that has a lot of plastic on it and a soda-straw barrel. It’s one of those dual-ammo rifles that shoots both BBs and pellets but has a rifled bore. As this report is written, Pyramyd Air has them priced at $59.95.

$100 PCP
Dennis Quackenbush turned a Crosman 2100B multi-pump into a PCP by adding a reservoir where the pump mechanism used to be.

$100 PCP forearm tip
The forearm tip no longer has anything to attach to. It used to be the anchor for the pump pivot.

To convert the rifle, Dennis had to remove the multi-pump mechanism (pump linkage, pump anchor, pump head and rod and connecting hardware), including the tube that houses it. A steel hydraulic tube was installed in its place. Dennis chose SAE 1026 tubing that’s 0.75″ diameter on the outside and has a wall thickness of 0.083 inches. That gives the tube a burst pressure rating of 14,386 psi — more than enough for this project. In fact, to use Dennis’ words, it’s overkill.

A tube with a thinner wall thickness would have more internal volume, but it would be marginal for the threads that Dennis cut inside the tube to attach to the brass firing valve. Thinner tubing would have to be pinned instead of threaded. It would still work fine and the burst rating would still be many times the expected operating pressure.

To complete the gun, Dennis had to thread the other end to accept a fill nipple. He also had to change the firing valve return spring because the thick-walled tube didn’t allow sufficient clearance for the factory spring.

Cost to build
What are we looking at? The gun costs $60. The new reservoir tube has a nominal cost of $10. The fill nipple has a small cost, along with some other small parts. And Dennis has to get paid for his time to remove the factory parts, thread the new tube on both ends, install the new tube and seal it on both ends. He also had to turn the pump arm that swings into a forearm that attaches to the pressure tube. A special barrel hanger had to be made so he didn’t need to drill and tap holes in the pressure tube. Takes about a minute to write about all the work and maybe 6-8 hours to do it. Do several and you’ll find ways to shorten the time to perhaps 4 hours.

So — those who expect Dennis to go into business making this airgun want him to fork out $75 and spend 4 hours of his time to make $25. Does that seem fair? Of course not! Even if he could cut a deal with Crosman or a distributor to lower his out-of-pocket expenses for the starter rifle, he’s still working for peanuts.

Crosman, on the other hand, could do something like this with great efficiency! They could make small adjustments to the manufacturing process upstream, so this gun wouldn’t cost them any more to build than the 2100B — or if it did cost more, the difference would be quite small.

So, why don’t “they” do it? Well, I expect our comments will provide some answers. For starters there will be those who find plastic on airguns to be poison. No plastic for them! And the soda-straw barrel will also turn them off. What are “they” trying to foist on us? Don’t “they” know that plastic and cheap barrels turn us off?

Well, I’m not doing this project for people who feel that way. This is a precharged airgun that can retail for less than $100, and corners have to be cut. We don’t ever skimp on safety, but performance? Forget performance! You’re going to get a soda-straw barrel and lots of plastic for under $100, and you’ll be happy with it.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of shooters out there who would be thrilled to get a PCP for under $100. They would accept the thin barrel and the plastic, knowing that this is the only way they will ever get close to their goal of an affordable PCP. Those are the ones I’m doing this project for. The others can buy the more expensive PCPs and make all the comparisons they want.

So what?
Is such a PCP worth the effort? What kind of velocity will it have? What kind of accuracy? How many good shots will it have per fill? Is it an airgun worth having, or is it just a dream that was poorly executed? We talk about these things on this blog all the time — but today, thanks to Dennis Quackenbush, we actually have one we can test.

I thought you readers would really enjoy the rifling twist-rate test I did this year and last. I published 13 parts of that report; and by the end of it all, I was standing alone in my field, listening to the crickets chirp. I also published the entire test in Shotgun News as a feature article and, while the editor got excited along with me, there were more crickets chirping. It’s clear that I don’t always know what will turn your crank.

However, if the comments that came in when I merely mentioned this test was coming are any indication, many of you are very interested. And now you understand what this is.

This gun has a cheap soda-straw barrel (one made from very thin steel tubing). It’s rifled with a compromise rifling that’s good for both lead pellets and steel BBs. The trigger is the same one that’s on the Crosman 2100B that I tested for you. So, expect accuracy like you saw in that test. It wasn’t that bad, as you will see, if you bother to read that report. As for velocity, well, I already know what it is, but I’m not telling today. That will come in Part 2, like it always does.

My goal
The point of this test is to see if a gun can be made this way, and, if it can, how will it perform? I’m not going to tune this rifle to turn it into a viable air rifle, if it isn’t one already. I just want to know if it works. If it does work, does it work good enough that it would be worth building a commercial rifle just like it? In short — is this worthwhile?

I haven’t mentioned numerous things. Things like the fact that larger-diameter tubing could have been used, if the design was altered upstream in the manufacturing process. The cost wouldn’t have been that much more because the alterations would have been made with cost control in mind. Obviously this rifle could also be made as a .22. Is that of interest to anyone? There is a Crosman 2200, you know. A better trigger could be made if there was corporate support for one.

I also haven’t talked about the obvious point that the fill pressure of this gun will be lower than even that of the Benjamin Discovery. Because of that, the wall thickness of the pressure tubing can be much thinner than what’s been used here, meaning a production rifle could hold a lot more air than this one. So, whatever shot count we see here can easily be increased with very little additional cost, if any.

And the valve can be modified by an engineer to work best at the pressure that’s available. The new valve will be different than the one in this test rifle, but it doesn’t need to cost any more money.

In short, I’m testing a concept — not a production air rifle. The final rifle can be so much more than the one I test for you, yet the cost to produce can easily be held in check to ensure that a retail price of less than $100 is entirely possible. I’m tired of being told by airgun companies why something can’t be done, and now Dennis Quackenbush has made it possible that I don’t have to. None of us do.

But this is not a high-quality air rifle that’s made of wood and steel. You can’t build a PCP for under $100 and have those things. This is an air rifle for those guys who want to try out PCPs but don’t want to spend large amounts of money getting them. And also for guys who just don’t have the money to spend — period. That doesn’t mean that it has to be inaccurate — but don’t expect a Lothar Walther barrel. And accept plastic for what it is. You accept it on Glocks — expand your horizons.

This project promises to be quite interesting. It will answer questions I’ve wondered about for close to a decade. Because there’s a real air rifle to test, it will put an end to all the loose discussions and blue-sky dreaming that goes on…because this rifle now exists!

I’ll end with a thought from Dennis. If this rifle is worth making, then a lower-cost hand pump (that would fill only to a lower pressure) would also be extremely good to have. He’s thinking about that one right now.

BSA Meteor: Part 6

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

BSA Super Meteor
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.

Today, we’ll find out if a new breech seal fixes the low-velocity problem I had with my Meteor in the last test. You’ll remember that I tested the rifle for velocity and noted that the breech seal was pretty bad in the last report. I removed it and made a quick leather seal just to test the gun. I got initial velocities in the low 500s with light lead pellets, but they quickly dropped to the 300s to 400s. I felt the breech seal was the problem, and since T.R. Robb had treated me so well on the piston head and seals, I ordered some new breech seals from them. They were 5 pounds each, and shipping to the U.S. added 2 pounds, 50 pence for a total of 17 pounds, 50 pence, shipped ($28.82). They arrived last Friday, and I quickly installed one in the gun.

BSA Super Meteor new breech seal
The new breech seal is small in diameter, but tall to fit the groove in the breech.

BSA Super Meteor leather breech seal
The temporary leather seal had flattened out across the entire rear of the barrel. The darker circle is where the actual seal is supposed to be.

BSA Super Meteor no breech seal
This is the groove where the breech seal fits.

BSA Super Meteor new breech seal

And here’s the new synthetic breech seal standing proud of the breech, as it should.

The rifle is already well-lubed from the rebuild I just finished. After the new seal was pressed into place, all that remained was to test it. You would do well to at least scan Part 5 to see the last velocities. RWS Hobbys were running around 360 f.p.s.

RWS Hobby
I’d seated the pellets deep for the previous test, so that’s how this test began. RWS Hobby pellets averaged 648 f.p.s. with a spread from 633 to 663 f.p.s. It was obvious that some dieseling was happening, as I could smell it as I shot. I think these velocities are slightly elevated from where the gun will settle after a break-in of a few hundred shots. At the average velocity, this pellet is producing 6.53 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That’s not a lot, but it’s much more than it was doing before the breech seal.

Next, I tried seating Hobbys flush with the breech with finger pressure, alone. These averaged 652 f.p.s., with a spread from 638 to 665 f.p.s. The muzzle energy raised slightly to 6.61 foot-pounds — not really a significant difference. The velocity spread tightened by 3 f.p.s., too, but that’s also insignificant. I’m of the opinion that at this point, deep-seating isn’t doing much — at least for this pellet.

JSB Exact RS
Next, I tried the 7.33-grain JSB Exact RS pellet. This one shot faster when the gun had the leather breech seal — an average of 460 f.p.s., but that number was also declining fast as the seal flattened out. The difference in velocity between these and the Hobbys might just have been the order in which they were tested.

When seated deep, the RS pellets averaged 611 f.p.s. for 5 shots, but I got the impression that the velocity was starting to drop — as if the excess lubricant had been burned off. Seated flush, the same RS pellet averaged 592 f.p.s., but the string was an almost linear velocity drop from the first shot at 611 f.p.s. to the last, at 577 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produces 5.71 foot-pounds.

The gun seems to be breaking in and the velocity is declining slightly. I think it will settle down soon, so the gun will still show a marked increase from the new breech seal. To test that, I’ll do a special velocity retest after the accuracy tests are complete. They’ll give the gun more time to break in.

I’ve mentioned more than once how much I like the way this rifle fires. The trigger, though single-stage only, is crisp enough for me. It breaks at 4 lbs., 14 oz., which may seem like a lot; but on a handy plinking rifle, it really isn’t bad. If I’d been trying to shoot groups at 50 yards, maybe I could complain; but for what I want this gun to do, the trigger’s fine.

Cocking effort
The rifle cocks with just 19 lbs. of effort! Though it’s an adult-sized airgun, it cocks like a youth model — a feature I really enjoy. And the cocking is so precise. Pull the barrel down until you hear the sear click into position…and you’re done. There’s no overtravel and no long cocking stroke that takes you outside the range where you have the best mechanical advantage.

There’s also no buzzing or vibration that’s noticeable. I’m sure there must be some, but the gun feels very solid when it fires. It’s difficult to explain until you feel it in another air rifle, but it’s a feeling you’ll really enjoy.

I literally cannot wait to shoot this rifle for accuracy! I’ll first try it at 10 meters. If it does well, I’ll also try it at 25 yards. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to test this rifle a lot, now that it performs so well.

Product management

by B.B. Pelletier

Today was supposed to be a report on a vintage airgun — the Falke model 70; but over the Christmas holiday, something came up that I have to address: product management. It came to me from several directions. First, blog reader John, who is not afraid to tell us how he feels about anything, unloaded on the Crosman MK-177 multi-pump pneumatic. He pointed out that it could have had a removable fake magazine that would at least serve as additional storage, and the stock could have been minimally adjustable if a little thought had gone in before the molds were machined. I like the MK-177, but I have to agree with John on this. Crosman has shown that they know how to innovate with guns like the M4-177, so why couldn’t they do the same with this one?

Another thing that got me thinking about product management is the current sci-fi battle between DC Comics and Marvel. When I was a kid, DC Comics ruled. They had all the best superheroes such as Superman and Batman…while Marvel struggled along with lame characters like Spiderman and Thor. You may love them today, but that’s my point. Good management by Marvel raised these weak characters up to the point that they now have smash hit feature films and a top-rated one-hour television series, while Superman continues to be revived in the movies in increasingly embarrassing treatments that always miss the mark. And Batman? Let’s not even go there. The only thing DC hasn’t done yet to destroy Batman is to set it to music!

My point is — Marvel managed what they had and turned it into a giant success. DC, on the other hand, took world-class personalities and watered them down until not even their focus groups can tolerate them anymore. These are 2 stunning examples of what product management can do.

Sure, I could have picked on the American automobile industry that once ruled the world, but today is subservient to foreign technology. But that would have been unkind. Besides — we still do make good pickup trucks, though looking at the most recent offerings from Toyota, Nissan and Honda, I don’t know for how much longer. Only Harley Davidson has managed to pass through the netherworld of corporate death to be reborn in products that the world still idolizes.

These examples are all about product management. And airguns are no different.

Here we are on a blog that celebrates daily the best airguns the world has to offer. When a modern airgun is good, such as the TX200 Mark III and the new Walther LGV Challenger, we give it all the credit it is due. In fact, with the Air Venturi Bronco, we demonstrated that an air rifle can be both good and inexpensive. But when airgun companies try to pull the wool over our eyes by telling us that  velocity is to be prized over accuracy, or when we have to live with lousy triggers because that’s the way the world turns, we don’t have to take it.

I am the poster child of not taking it! In all my former careers where I worked for others, I rose to a certain level at which I was given a voice, then torpedoed any possible future I had by using that voice. Most people in management do not want to hear the truth. They want to hear that the emperor has beautiful clothes, even when he’s naked. And then they want to get right back to their golf games and whatever else really matters.

The Benjamin Discovery came from my frustration at precharged guns costing too much for the average shooter — especially one who is new to airguns and doesn’t want to make a seriously wrong decision! The Air Venturi Bronco came from a sense of loss of the Beeman C1 carbine and recognizing that an unpopular Mendoza youth rifle contained the seeds of greatness.

Then, there were the UTG drooper scope bases that corrected the severe barrel droop that all Diana rifles (except the model 350 Magnum) seem to have. Before taking that idea to Leapers, I’d discussed the barrel droop issue with the Diana vice president of marketing, who advised me her company saw no problem with how their air rifles were designed. I noted, however, that after several years of having the UTG drooper scope bases correct their droop problem, Diana redesigned all their airguns so the corrective bases no longer fit! Apparently they were paying attention — just not to what mattered!

I always thought that it would have made more sense to just correct the droop problem. People are now scoping their air rifles — something they didn’t do in the 1970s when the groundwork for most of the current Diana breakbarrel rifles was laid.

I could go on and on with more examples, but those of you who understand what I’m saying, get it. And the ones who don’t understand, never will.

But wait — there’s more!
I’m not finished. Because every so often, another really good idea pops to the surface. We have a couple of those bubbling up right now. I’m sworn to secrecy on the details, but there are new things coming out that will set the airgunning world on fire. In fact, these things are so big that they don’t transcend just airguns, they move into the million-times bigger world of the general population. That’s all I’ll say now; but on January 14 — the opening day of the 2014 Shot Show, I’ll show you something brand new. And here’s a really big hint: Some of you will be shocked to learn that you may already have it!

Item 2 is something new from me. A month ago, I was whining to Dennis Quackenbush about my $100 PCP idea and he said, “Let’s do it!” So, we did! And when I say “we,” I really mean him.

I told Dennis I was so tired of pitching my idea for an affordable precharged air rifle to one company after another, only to be smiled at and dismissed, that I wanted to do something about it. And again, it’s Dennis I’m talking about when it comes to the doing part. He caught on right away. Inside of 30 minutes, we designed the gun I’d dreamed about for so many years. A report on that one will be coming up very soon.

There are other projects that are perking along slower; but so far, 2014 is stacking up to be a pretty amazing year for airguns!

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol left
Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol

It’s accuracy day for the Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol, and some of you have been eagerly awaiting this day! I decided to shoot 3 different BBs in the gun just to give you a general idea of how well it groups.

Because this is a BB gun, the shooting distance was 5 meters, which is 16 feet, 5 inches. I sat backwards on a chair, resting my forearms over the back, so the pistol was fairly steady. I selected a 10-meter rifle target for this session because the smaller bull seemed appropriate for the shorter distance.

I forgot!
After installing the CO2 cartridge and loading the first 10 BBs, I tried to shoot the target and the gun wouldn’t fire! What was wring? I knew this was a double-action-only trigger, and it should have worked. Right?

Wrong! This trigger is not DAO. It only feels like one! It’s really a single-action trigger that requires the hammer to be cocked before it’ll work. You can squeeze the trigger all day and nothing will happen until the hammer is cocked. So, with this little problem out of the way, the test could begin.

Crosman Copperhead BBs
First up were 10 Crosman Copperhead BBs. As I shot, I noted that the pistol was very steady in my rested hands. And the target shows that…I think. Ten Copperheads went into 1.521 inches at 5 meters. But note the 2 holes that are apart from the main group. Eight of those BBs made a group measuring 0.78 inches.

The farthest of the 2 holes that are apart from the main group — the one to the extreme right — was a called flier. My hand twitched to the left as the shot fired. The other one, though, was held just like all the rest.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol Coppergead group
Ten shots in 1.521 inches, though the one at the right was a called flier. But look at the 8 that landed on the bull. They measure 0.78 inches between centers.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs
Next I tried 10 Daisy Premium Grade BBs. Like I mentioned in Part 1, they’re top-grade BBs that always deliver the goods. This time, 10 of them went into 1.114 inches. There were no called fliers, and the group is fairly well centered on the bull.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol Daisy group
Ten Daisy Premium Grade BBs went into 1.114 inches at 5 meters. No fliers were called.

Umarex BBs
The last BB I tried was the Umarex precision BB — another top-grade BB. Ten of them grouped in 1.28 inches, with 9 going into 0.998 inches. There were no called fliers in this group, either.

Beretta model 84 FS BB pistol Umarex group
Ten Umarex BBs went into 1.114 inches at 5 meters. No fliers were called.

Overall impressions
As I told you in Part 2, the trigger-pull on this pistol feels very much like a double-action pull. That’s one where the trigger first cocks the hammer before releasing it to fire the gun. It “stacks” or increases in effort significantly toward the end of the pull, like a vintage Colt double-action revolver. Once you learn how to use that, it helps with accuracy. The pistol is actually stabilized before firing.

This little Beretta is a fun BB gun, make no mistake. I found it trouble-free and easy to use. The sights are right on, and there are no quirks in the operation. If you like BB repeaters, this would be one to consider!

Our own Christmas story

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

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope this day finds you in good spirits, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

I have a special report just for this special day. It involves a BB gun, Daisy’s Avanti Champion 499 — also known as the world’s most accurate BB gun.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499
Daisy’s Avanti Champion 499 is the world’s most accurate BB gun.

About a month ago, my buddy Otho was visiting my house, and I pulled out my 499 to show him. I’d told him about it while we were at the rifle range the week before and he was fascinated, though he later admitted that he didn’t believe me when I told him how accurate it is. So, I took this opportunity not just to show him the gun, but to let him shoot it.

We made a quick BB gun range in my garage using the UTG BB and pellet trap with some 5-meter BB gun targets taped to the cardboard target backer on the front of the trap. I showed Otho how to raise the bottom front of the trap so that all the BBs that entered would stay inside because they roll to the back after they stop moving. And the ballistic curtains will take most of the energy out of each BB on the first pass through the trap.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 UTG Accushot trap
The UTG BB trap is the only BB trap available with replaceable ballistic curtains.

A muzzleloader!
Otho was captivated by the fact that the 499 is a muzzleloading single-shot. While it looks a lot like a Red Ryder, it couldn’t be more different! The gun is loaded by dropping one BB down the muzzle, which is shaped like a funnel. The BB rolls down the precision tubing that serves as the barrel, and it takes from 2 to 5 seconds to be captured by a magnet at the bottom. A faint click announces this. The magnet allows the shooter to hold the gun in any orientation without fear of the BB rolling out.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 muzzleloading
Load just 1 BB at a time by dropping it into the funnel-shaped muzzle and listening to it slowly roll down the barrel until it clicks against the magnet.

I told Otho to listen to the BB roll down and be captured by the magnet. That’s the only way to be sure the gun’s been loaded properly. He was fascinated by this and quickly learned to do it every time. His background in machining gave him an appreciation of just how uniform that barrel and BB had to be to make the short trip last so long!

Precision ground shot
Accompanying the 499 is a special BB that’s as precise as the gun. It used to have the model number 515, but today it’s just labeled Avanti Precision Ground Shot. It’s sold in small packs of 1050 and costs considerably more than standard BBs, but it makes a difference in the 499. You can shoot regular BBs in the 499, but they’re smaller and they roll down the barrel faster. During loading, you will see the roll time down the barrel decrease to as little as a half-second for Crosman Copperhead BBs to 1.5 seconds for Daisy Premium-grade zinc-plated BBs. Accuracy results will reflect the roll time, as that’s the best indication of the size and uniformity of each steel sphere.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 Precision Ground Shot
Daisy’s Avanti Precision Ground Shot is the only ammo to use in the 499. It’s far superior to regular BBs.

Daisy used to sell this gun with a cheaper rear peep sight that was difficult to adjust with precision. The sight that now comes standard on the gun was an option at that time. Finally they decided to just include the better sight and raise the price a little to cover it. While this sight is made largely of plastic, it’s still capable of precision adjustments. To eliminate slop in the mechanism, turn it several clicks in the direction opposite of where you wish to adjust; then, when you return, the slop will be taken out of the parts and the adjustment will be right on.

The front sight accepts inserts. Most shooters select the same one — an aperture that encircles the bull at 5 meters.

Proof of the pudding
A real shooter knows that the only thing that matters is what the gun does downrange. Fancy wood and deep bluing don’t mean a thing if the gun can’t shoot. So, naturally, Otho had to try his hand. The target was set as close to the regulation 5 meters from the firing line as it’s possible to get in my garage. We were probably at 15 feet, instead of 16 feet 5 inches, but it didn’t matter because we weren’t shooting for record. His first 5 shots produced a group smaller than any he had ever shot with a BB gun, but it did much more that just that. It awakened his rifleman’s spirit! Here was a gun that could shoot better than he could — guaranteed!

His eyelids dropped into a squint that broadcast concentration. His next 5 shots all landed in the same place and were all on the bullseye. The room now grew quiet as his concentration ratcheted up another notch.

Another 5 shots went downrange, and this time he was really trying. The smaller hole in this target reflected the attempt! The gun is apparently a perfect gauge of the effort that’s put into it! The heavens opened and a shaft of divinely-inspired sunlight bathed the shooter in glory. Otho was hooked! He now understood what I had been trying to tell him. The Daisy Avanti Champion 499 is the world’s most accurate BB gun! It is the gun that every real shooter hopes to find one day — one that can out-shoot him and will never be finicky. Do your best and the gun reflects it on target — pure and simple.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 target
This is what the 499 can do at 5 meters. Ten shots in this group!

A Christmas story
This is where Otho had his epiphany. He went home and immediately ordered a Daisy Avanti Champion 499 for himself. On my recommendation, he also ordered several packs of Precision Ground Shot, plus I gave him a pack to get started since Pyramyd Air was temporarily backordered when he placed his order. He also bought 5-meter paper targets and a UTG target trap. In short, he purchased a complete shooting kit that had everything he needed to get started.

Three days later he called to tell me his gun had arrived, and he was already shooting the BBs I had given him. The day after that he called to tell me that he had ordered 3 additional shooting kits as Christmas gifts for his son, son-in-law and another friend. A week later he told me that he had taken his gun to his country home, where he stayed indoors and shot targets all day while his friends and family sat out in cold wet high seats, awaiting the deer that never showed.

Then, on December 23, Otho called me one more time to tell me he was purchasing one more gift set for another friend who hadn’t shown any interest until the day before. His gift will arrive late, but it will be just as appreciated, I’m sure.

Otho never told me, but I am reasonably sure that he takes his new BB gun to bed with him every night, drifting off to sleep while shooting ducks on the wing and getting off spectacular hipshots. I think this little Daisy might be the greatest Christmas gift he will ever get or give, and it is our own version of A Christmas Story. Merry Christmas!

Crosman MK-177 multi-pump pneumatic: Part 1

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

Crosman MK 177 multi pump pneumatic
Crosman MK-177 is a multi-pump version of FN’s SCAR.

Here’s an air rifle I’ve been waiting to test since this year’s SHOT Show last January, and now it’s Christmas Eve and I’m just getting started. Where do the days go?

There are 3 versions of the Crosman MK-177 multi-pump pneumatic. The one I’m testing is dark earth-colored with non-optical sights. There’s also a black version with non-optical sights and a dark-earth-colored kit gun that’s packaged with a dot sight instead of the non-optical sights. All 3 variations are pneumatic versions of FN’s Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) in Close Quarters Combat dress.

This is both a pellet repeater and a BB repeater; and, yes, the barrel is rifled. Pellets are fed from a plastic 5-shot harmonica-style clip that’s inserted on the right side of the receiver. BBs are fed from an internal reservoir that holds up to 300. To shoot pellets, the rifle must not have BBs in it, or a jam might result. So, it’s one type of ammunition or the other. Not both at the same time.

I will shoot the rifle with both BBs and pellets, but it’s the pellets that I’m most interested in. They offer the opportunity for accuracy, and I hope the rifle delivers on that promise!

BBs go into an internal reservoir through a covered hole located on the right side of the breech. Then, a sliding switch on the right side of the receiver is pushed forward, and the rifle is pointed straight down and shaken from side to side. This fills a small visible BB magazine that works by gravity.

Crosman MK 177 multi pump pneumatic BB magazine
The gravity-feed BB magazine is on the right side of the receiver. Push the black switch forward and shake the rifle side-to-side with the muzzle pointed down to fill this magazine from the internal BB reservoir. The BBs are visible through the slots cut in the receiver.

The 5-shot pellet clip is just a carrier. It stops in place for each pellet to be pushed into the breech by the bolt. Once the last shot has been fired, a light push in from the right ejects it out the left side of the receiver. Be careful outdoors, or you’ll lose the small clip when it pops out. Any time you want to unload the rifle, you can just pull the clip back out or push it through — nothing prevents it from moving.

Speaking of the bolt, the handle is located on the left side of the gun. This accommodates right-handed shooters best because your off-hand is free to work the bolt. In reality, it makes no difference since the gun must be pumped for each shot, which means it has to be manipulated anyway.

The forearm is the pump lever, and the rifle uses a short-stroke pump similar to Crosman’s 760 Pumpmaster. Pump the gun from 3 to 10 times maximum, depending on what you’re shooting. The pump strokes are light and easy, but the forearm/pump handle sticks a little when its stored. That may change as the gun breaks in.

Crosman MK 177 multi pump pneumatic pump arm down
The MK-177 has a short stroke pump. The forearm comes down like this for every stroke.

I intentionally asked to test the rifle with open sights, and am I ever glad that I did. I thought the sights would be plastic like the rest of the gun, but they’re both made from aluminum and built to last. The rear sight has a flipper with 2 aperture sizes, while the front sight is a simple post.

A sight adjustment tool comes with the gun. The front sight adjusts up and down for elevation (remember to do it in reverse of what you want on to target), and the rear sight adjusts side to side.

Crosman MK 177 multi pump pneumatic rear sight
Rear sight is made of aluminum and adjusts for windage. The sight has 2 different peep holes.

Crosman MK 177 multi pump pneumatic front sight
Front sight is made from aluminum and adjusts for elevation. A special tool is provided to adjust both sights.

This air rifle is made of a lot of plastic, and I know that will upset some shooters. But you can’t get a metal air rifle at this price point today. The shape is very realistic, but none of the conventional firearm controls work. They’re simply cast into the shell of the gun. And the buttstock doesn’t extend, making the 12-inch pull something you must live with. The buttpad is soft black rubber and sticks to your shoulder very well.

The trigger is surprisingly good. It’s so good that I think they designed it during the lawyer’s vacation! I’ll report the specifics in Part 2, but I wish their Benjamin multi-pumps had triggers this nice.

Finally, Crosman has managed to eke out a tad more velocity from this valve in a redesign. They rate BBs at 800 f.p.s. with maximum pumps, which is screaming fast for steel BBs! Naturally, that’ll be tested in the velocity test to come.

In all, I think we have a nice air rifle to consider!

Octane combo from Umarex: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Octane combo
Umarex Octane gas spring rifle combo.

Today’s report is both interesting and a little different. I shot the .22-caliber Octane combo from Umarex at 25 yards and used the Umarex 3-9X40 scope that came in the package. I’ll talk about the scope and mounts first.

The scope is a variable with parallax adjustment from 10 yards to infinity. It features a duplex reticle and comes with 2-piece Weaver rings that have 4 screws per cap. The top of the rifle has a Picatinny adapter clamped on the 11mm dovetails that are cut directly into the spring tube, so the scope rings mounted quickly.

I found the scope to be clear and sharp, and the parallax adjustment to be close to the actual distance once the eyepiece was adjusted correctly. This is one of the nicest scopes I have seen bundled with a combo airgun. I don’t think you need to buy anything other than pellets — lots of pellets.

I sighted-in the gun at 12 feet with one shot, then backed up to 25 yards to refine the sight picture. Veteran readers know I’m purposely trying not to hit the center of the bull, as that erases the aim point.

I was finished sighting-in after 4 more shots and ready to start shooting for the record. The first pellet I selected was the .22 caliber 14.3-grain Crosman Premier that had done so well in the 10-meter test with open sights.

After the first 5 shots, I thought I had a slam-dunk accurate rifle, but I guess I got a little sloppy. Shot 6 went into the same hole, but shots 7 through 10 moved over to the left of the main group. Six consecutive shots went into 0.449 inches; but after 10 shots, the group measured 1.067 inches.

Octane combo Premier group 1
The first 6 Crosman Premiers went into a tight 0.449 inches, but the remaining 4 shots opened the group to 1.067 inches at 25 yards.

After this group was finished I discovered the scope base screws were both loose. That made the scope loose, as well. I tightened them and checked them frequently throughout the remainder of the test.

The second group of Premiers opened to 1.382 inches. This one is very horizontal, but within it is a tight group of 4 shots that came early in the string. That group measures 0.188 inches between centers.

Octane combo Premier group 2
These 10 Premiers are not very impressive for 25 yards, at 1.382 inches between centers; but at the 9 o’clock position on the bull, 4 pellets went into a tight 0.188 inches!

Following this group, I noticed that both forearm screws had come loose. So they were tightened — a lot! And for the rest of the test, I monitored their tightness closely.

What’s happening?
The Octane recoils a lot, and you have to watch all the screws. Once they’re tight, they probably won’t back out for a long time; but the first time you use the gun, they probably need to be tightened just a bit more than normal. At least, watch for them to loosen.

This is nothing new. We have always been told to watch the screws on spring guns that recoil heavily. I just forgot it this time until it became obvious downrange.

JSB Exact Jumbo
Next I tried JSB Exact Jumbo pellets. They did very well for the first 6, then the last 4 wandered over to the right. And when I say “wandered,” I mean they really went places! The group measures 2.822 inches between centers, with 6 of those shots in 0.763 inches.

Octane combo JSB Exact Jumbo group
Interesting group! Six shots in a tight 0.763 inches, then the last 4 stretched it out to 2.822 inches. Go figure!

After this group, I played around with holding my off hand at different places under the forearm, and then some non-standard holds that included resting the rifle directly on the bag 2 different ways. By the time I was finished, I’d fired over 60 shots from a rifle that takes 39 lbs. of force to cock. I never reported that effort in Part 2, like I normally would, so now you know that the Octane is hard to cock — like all powerful gas spring airguns.

I suspected that I was tiring at this point. The term used in competition is I was “blowing up”! The Octane wanted to put them in the same place, but something prevented it. I shot one final group of Premiers — just to see if I could see what it was doing. But that group wasn’t worth reporting. I had clearly pushed past the point of fatigue, so the session was over.

Here’s what’s at stake. Priced at just $200 with a very good scope, the Octane is poised to take its place beside legendary air rifles like the RWS Diana 34 Striker Pro combo. It’s actually $100 less than the 34, yet offers the same power. If it also gives the same accuracy, the Octane suddenly becomes an important air rifle; and if the horribly heavy trigger has a workable solution that the average owner can follow, then folks, we have a winner. So, I want to give this air rifle every chance to compete. It seems to want to do well, so I need to find out what needs to be done.

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?

All the fun, none of the hassles!
Uzi CO2 BB submachine gun

You've seen tons of movies with guys spraying bullets from their Uzi submachine guns and probably thought it would be a blast. Except for the cost of ammo! You can have all that fun with this Uzi BB submachine gun at just pennies a round. Throw shots downrange for hours on end with all the fun, none of the firearm hassles and a fraction of the cost.