Archive for February 2014

Two firearms made by airgun manufacturers: Part 1

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

Got a lot to cover today, so let’s get to it.

First up is the Daisy Manufacturing Company, now called Daisy Outdoor Products. Daisy is best-known for the BB guns they make, but did you know they also made firearms? That’s correct. In fact, Daisy made 3 different lines of .22 rimfire rifles — though one of them is only a rimfire by common categorization. That would be the Daisy V/L. V/L stands for Van Langenhoven, the last name of the man who invented the caseless cartridge technology Daisy used to make this gun. I’ve covered this before when I wrote about the new Daisy book published in 2012.

Although it’s commonly classified with .22 rimfire rifles, the caseless round does not even have a rim. There’s no priming compound in this cartridge. This caseless cartridge was made from a material that combusts when heated rapidly by the compressed air of a spring-piston air rifle. So, the Daisy V/L is, in fact, an underlever spring-piston air rifle that just happens to shoot caseless .22 rounds. Daisy made their V/L rifle in the late 1960s (1968 & ’69).

Daisy also made a line of bolt-action rifles called the Legacy line in the 1980s and ’90s. These rifles have weird diecast and steel receivers mounted in both plastic and wood stocks. But they’re not the guns I want to discuss today.

I have handled both the Legacy and V/L rifles, but I don’t know much about them. What I do know something about is a Daisy rimfire that is even less well-known than either of these.

I also wrote about airgun makers who made firearms in 2006.

Daisy model 8
In 1988 and ’89, Daisy produced an economical .22 rimfire single-shot rifle for Wal-Mart. They were supposed to have built 30,000 rifles, but the contract was either terminated or somehow not completed; and the actual number of rifles made is something less. The Blue Book of Gun Values says they made 30,000 of them, but Joe Murfin of Daisy told me about the problem with Wal-Mart and said they didn’t make that many. Something on the left side of the barrel has been machined off. This is on every model 8 I’ve seen.

Daisy model 8 machines area
All the Daisy model 8 rifles I’ve seen (about 10) have had this area of the barrel machined off. Something was stamped there.

This rifle is small. If you know what a Crickett rifle is, this one is just slightly larger. If you don’t know what a Crickett is, the Daisy rifle has an overall length of just 32-1/4 inches and a weight of 3 lbs., 1 oz. In other words, it’s tiny!

It has a painted action and barrel in a hollow plastic stock. The overall impression is — this gun is cheap.

Daisy model 8 rear sight
Daisy rear sight looks a lot like an airgun sight. It adjusts for windage and elevation.

Do you think that airgun companies are loaded with engineers wearing white lab coats? The Daisy model 8 looks more like something that was designed in high school shop class when the teacher was out on his smoke break. The designer is someone you all know — the kid without the eyebrows. The one who couldn’t hear out of his left ear. Later on in life, he was known as Stumpy; and before he turned 25, he disappeared completely.

What I’m saying is that this is a bolt-action rifle that’s designed with screen-door-latch technology. It began as an exercise to see how cheaply we could make it, and that was followed by two rounds of cost-cutting before corporate council pulled the plug for liability reasons.

Daisy model 8 bolt action
Model 8 bolt handle looks like common hardware! The receiver is a diecast part with a steel tube pressed in for strength.

Daisy model 8 with Crickett
Daisy model 8 (below) is just a little larger than a Crickett.

And I have one! Are they rare? I don’t know. Are they scarce? Most assuredly! Have some of them been lost over time? Almost a given! Are they worth anything? Not very much. This is not an heirloom gun — it’s a hair-brained gun!

I bought one just because of what it is. I also bought the Crickett to serve a basis for comparison. Both are small, but one (the Crickett) is designed by gunmakers, while the other (the Daisy model 8) looks like it was designed by McGuyver while he was in the throws of an acid flashback.

Yes, I have shot this rifle. No, it doesn’t shoot very well. In fact, it misfires about 25 percent of the time, which I attribute to a weak firing pin spring. Accuracy is on the order of 3-4 inches at 25 yards — so far. Maybe I haven’t found the right ammo, yet — ha, ha.

The Crickett
I said I bought the Crickett for comparison. I’m just throwing it in here because many more shooters are familiar with it than with the Daisy. Much of its design is similar to the Daisy model 8; but at every turn, you can see where its design exceeds the Daisy. I guess I would say the Crickett is just a small firearm, while the Daisy is more of a small example of what not to do.

Crickett bolt and peep sight
In sharp contrast to the Daisy, the Crickett bolt looks like a firearm bolt and the receiver is all steel. They even put a peep sight at the rear! Didn’t cost that much, but this is what designers can do.

I’ve also shot the Crickett, and it’s 100 percent reliable. While it’s no tackdriver, it will put its shots into 1.5 inches at 25 yards — and sometimes the groups are even smaller. In my estimation, the Crickett is a small, inexpensive firearm, while the Daisy model 8 is a cheap rimfire wannabe. Having said all that — who have I insulted? I sure hope your favorite .22 is not a Daisy model 8!

So what?
The point of this look is to see what an airgun manufacturer will turn out when they make a firearm. But maybe this Daisy model isn’t a fair representation because Daisy built this for their customer. Let’s look at another rimfire rifle that was made by a different airgun manufacturer, and this time they made it for themselves.

The Falke single-shot
Yes — that Falke. The same people who made the super-rare and interesting Falke model 80 and 90 underlevers and also the Falke models 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70 breakbarrel spring rifles. We looked at a Falke model 70.

Falke single shot with Daisy model 8
Compared to the Daisy model 8 (top), the Falke single-shot is a full-sized rifle.

This rifle is a confusing firearm. On the one hand, the walnut stock is shaped nicely and hand checkered, the metal polish and bluing is even and deep, and the action is cheap and stiff to operate. What should be the simplest of all actions — a single-shot — is machined very well, yet it functions like it’s been rusting in the corner for decades.

Falke was one of those “anything for a buck” companies that arose in Germany after the war. I’m sure they would have disagreed with that assessment, but the fact is they had no plan of succession; and when the founder got sick in the late ’50s, the company folded.

Falke logo
Where have we seen this logo before?

They made at least 2 firearms. This bolt-action rifle is one, and I’ve also seen a stylized Remington double derringer in .22 rimfire.

I bought this rifle because it’s a Falke and because it looked so nice on the internet. When I received it, I found it to be even nicer than the photos portrayed. But the action is stiff and clunky! I never would have bought it if I’d tried it first. However, I believe I can correct most of this with some careful gunsmithing.

The rifle is full-sized at 40-3/4 inches overall, with a 23-inch barrel. The pull length is 13-1/2 inches. The barrel is nicely rifled, and the gun appears to be in 90 percent condition. The wood has been sanded, which is the only detractor from the overall appearance.

The front sight is a common post with a bead, but the rear sight has the same quirky elevation adjustment that we saw on the Falke model 70 air rifle! With luck, this rifle will shoot.

Falke rear sight
We saw a rear sight just like this on the Falke model 70 air rifle.

This is a bolt-action single-shot. It has a separate cocking piece that will cock the rifle by itself (without the bolt being operated), but right now the sear is under too much tension and the cocking piece cannot be pulled back all the way. The bolt cocks the action on closing.

Again — so what?
I’ve shown you 2 firearms that were made by 2 different airgun makers. My plan is to shoot both of them and come back to you with the results in the next report. I’ll do that as the rifles stand right now, but the Daisy really does need a stronger firing pin spring, and the Falke needs its action smoothed a lot.

Why am I doing this? Perhaps, to show the contrast of firearms and airguns made by the same maker. I think we have that in both these cases.

I know several of you readers probably own Daisy Legacy rimfire rifles, and I would like to hear what you think of them. If any of you own a Daisy model 8, you have both my apologies and my sympathy. And if anyone ownes a Falke firearm, I sure would like to hear about it!

The way this blog works

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

Today I want to talk about this blog — what it is and how it operates. Two days ago, several readers got into a flaming war over politics. Each party wanted to have the last word, so the comments kept flying back and forth, getting pettier and pettier as they went. When I booted my computer Wednesday morning, I had 177 emails to read and deal with.

This blog is one of the most popular blogs that deals with the shooting sports. We have many tens of thousands of regular readers. Most of the time, this is a pretty fun place to be. But not yesterday.

Yesterday, a few people ruined the experience for everyone. They got into a political argument, and no party was willing to shut up. Back and forth, they kept zinging their comments, ruining the experience for everyone else.

I don’t mind a political statement now and then. I make them myself. But no one is going to hijack this blog just so they can get in the last word. That’s what the forums are for — or at least that’s how people who are on them behave. Not here.

This blog is successful because it sticks to the topics of the shooting sports. Mostly, it’s about airguns, but from time to time it does stray into other areas. I find the mix of topics interesting and stimulating; and from the success of the blog over the decade it’s been running, I think that sentiment is shared by a lot of readers.

We were established to educate people about airguns and the shooting sports. Some people think that if you talk about anything other than a pellet or BB gun you’ve gone off-topic, but then when I use common shooting terms like flyer or double-action in my reports, they start asking all kinds of questions. So, I’ve expanded my brief to cover the entire range of the shooting sports — just to complete the education process. If you don’t understand what rifling does, then how can you appreciate the way a diabolo pellet works?

Spams
Because we’re very popular, we get hit with spams. These are commercial messages that have nothing to do with the topics of the blog but provide embedded links to other websites. Since this blog ranks high in the search engines, the spammers are hoping they’ll be able to ride our coattails and get some ranking for their sites. Edith and I remove the spams all day long, and every morning we have to clear out a ton of them. We get 30-70 spam messages every 24-hour period, and the rate is increasing. As the blog succeeds, the spams increase.

I don’t mind mucking out the blog to get rid of these parasites, but I’m not going to let regular readers spin out of control and muddy the waters at the same time. If you’re a reader, you’re expected to treat this place like you would the living room of your own home. This isn’t an overpass where you can spray paint your frustrations. This is a place where people meet to discuss in a civil way things that interest them. If you can’t do that, go somewhere else to vent.

Family blog
This blog gets read by school-aged children. Parents email Edith and me, thanking us for providing an internet site where they can go with their kids to read about the shooting sports without having to worry about foul language. We want that to continue. That includes omitting the foul-language abbreviations that are universally recognized by young people.

Longtime readers know this and abide by it without saying anything. But, sometimes, newer readers have to be advised to clean up their language. Well, now I’m addressing everyone. Foul language will not be tolerated on this blog. That goes for slang, innuendo, abbreviations and acronyms. If you think it’s bad, I probably do, too.

Off-topic comments
We allow comments to go off-topic on this blog. A couple years ago, we had an encounter with several readers who had more rigid views of what should be allowed here. We told them our policy, and they elected not to comment on the blog anymore. Several of them still read regularly, but they no longer post under the handles they used during that encounter.

Sales and self-promotion
This blog belongs to Pyramyd Air. They pay for the servers that host it, and they pay me to write it. Yes — I am paid by Pyramyd Air! I’m not their employee, but they do pay me for what I do. At the same time, they make no attempt to censor me, nor to tell me what to write. From time to time, they do suggest topics that will help their sales people get certain messages across, but these are educational — not sales-oriented! You readers suggest 10 times as many topics as they do.

Because the blog belongs to Pyramyd Air, we do not allow links to competing businesses. That may confuse some readers because we will link to some commercial places — as long as they are not in direct competition with Pyramyd Air. Also, if there’s a product that Pyramyd Air cannot carry for various business reasons, I won’t review that item on the blog. That does limit the range of airguns I can review, but Pyramyd Air is the largest airgun dealer in the United States, so it isn’t devastating.

A couple of our readers are promoting themselves right now, but it hasn’t gotten out of hand yet, so I’ve left it alone. They’ve been subtle about it to this point. If they cross the line, I will take action.

Flaming
We will not allow one reader to verbally attack another. Edith has removed all comments on the report about the EscapeUL rifle that were argumentative. We can’t just take out the ones that are bad and leave the others — that only confuses things. And it isn’t fair to those who are interested in the EscapeUL to have to wade through a pile of muck to read comments about this rifle.

If we have a problem with a person who just can’t stop flaming (insulting or verbally attacking) others, we’ll ban that person from the blog. That’s a ban on commenting only, not on reading.

This was overdue
I’d planned a different blog for today, but it was put on hold so I could address this issue. We have so many new readers that this was long overdue. I held off because people were behaving themselves, for the most part. But a week ago, we picked up a new reader who went off the deep end almost from the beginning. Then, several other new readers joined him; and yesterday evening it culminated in a hostile food-fight exchange of comments that we had to remove.

So, here are the guidelines. When someone starts off on a personal rant, don’t answer him back. If he persists, we’ll take care of it. When you answer someone, you help create a thread that can get indexed by the search engines if we leave it up long enough. When that happens, this blog starts attracting the bad people. You don’t want that and neither do we.

Edith cleans house
My wife, Edith, is the blog clean-up gal. When the blog gets trashed with comments that don’t belong, she has to stop her other duties for Pyramyd Air and tend to the blog. She had to delete 76 comments in yesterday’s blog. She had to read all the comments to determine which ones had to be pulled. In some cases, the content of a comment or thread had pertinent/useful airgun info in addition to the bad stuff. In those cases, she threw out the baby with the bathwater and deleted the whole thing. So, if you said something useful or helpful about airguns and it’s now gone, that’s why. Feel free to repost that info if you like.

Tomorrow
We’ll return to regular subjects tomorrow. Just to get your juices flowing, think about firearm companies like Smith & Wesson and Webley that have also made airguns. I don’t mean companies that have put their names on airguns like Colt and Dan Wesson — I mean companies that actually produced airguns.

Then, think of the airgun companies that have also made firearms. If I said Weihrauch, what kind of a company are they? Are they an airgun company, or are they a firearm company? We know they make high-quality airguns, but they also make and have made high-quality firearms. But Weihrauch has also made some of the cheapest so-called Saturday night specials that were ever produced! I’m referring to their Arminius line of zinc-diecast double-action revolvers.

When an airgun company makes a firearm, how do they make it? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Be prepared to discuss that.

.22-caliber Lightweight Disco Double: Part 5

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Disco Double new stock
The Lightweight Disco Double in its new stock looks striking!

Today, we’ll look at the Disco Double out at 50 yards. I used the best pellets from the 25-yard test to speed up this test. No sense going over the same ground twice.

The first pellet I tried was the JSB Exact Jumbo RS. It did the best at 25 yards, plus it’s so light, at 13.43 grains, that it gives the rifle a little extra zing.

The rifle arrived at the range filled to 2,000 psi, so I went right to work. I clicked the scope up 5 clicks in elevation to account for the greater distance and began shooting. The day was surprisingly cold — about 28 degrees F. My trigger finger had very little feeling, yet I was able to feel when stage 2 engaged on the trigger every time. That’s important on this rifle because the trigger is very light on stage 2.

There was no wind on the range, which made this a perfect day for shooting a pellet rifle. The first 10 shots went into 1.558 inches between centers. That’s not as small as many 50-yard groups you’ve seen me shoot, but let’s keep testing.

Disco Double 50-yard JSB RS group 1
This initial 10-shot, 50-yard group of JSB RS pellets measures 1.558 inches between centers. I’d hoped for something smaller.

Crosman Premiers
Next up were .22-caliber Crosman Premiers. The first 3 shots went into 2.269-inches and I stopped shooting. These pellets weren’t going to work at 50 yards.

JSB Exact, 15.89 grains
Next up were the heavier 15.89-grain JSB Exact Jumbos that looked promising at 25 yards. They produced a 10-shot group that measured 1.778 inches between centers. It was a little larger than the JSB RS pellet group at 50 yards, just as it was a 25 yards. So far, no prize.

Disco Double 50-yard JSB Exact group
This 10-shot, 50-yard group of JSB Exact pellets measures 1.778 inches between centers.

Beeman Kodiak
The last pellet I tried was the Beeman Kodiak, which just did fair at 25 yards. Here at 50 yards, they put 10 into 2.458 inches. That’s hardly accurate! I almost stopped shooting this group when I saw how the shots opened up; but I thought that after doing that with the Premiers, I ought to let one go the distance just to show you what it looked like.

Disco Double 50-yard Beeman Kodiak group
Ten Beeman Kodiak pellets went into 2.458 inches at 50 yards. Not a pellet for this rifle.

Back to the JSB Exact RS
I wasn’t finished with the testing just yet. The rifle was topped off at 2,000 psi again, and I went back to the pellet that was giving me the best results — the JSB Exact RS. The next group of 10 was the tightest of the session, at 1.318 inches between centers. I’d adjusted the scope for the Kodiaks, so this one landed below the bull.

Disco Double 50-yard JSB RS group 2
This best 10-shot group of JSB Exact RS pellets measures 1.3418 inches between centers.

I then shot 2 more 10-shot groups with the RS pellet. The first measured 1.522 inches, and the second measured 1.543 inches. When I examined the target after bringing it back from downrange, I saw a pattern. The RS pellet wasn’t giving tight groups, but they were very consistent. Out of 4 groups, the total variance was 0.24 inches — from 1.3 to 1.5 and change. That’s pretty consistent.

What do we know?
We know this Disco Double can put 10 pellets into 0.365 inches at 25 yards. And with the same pellet, we know that it opens up to about 1.5 inches when the distance is doubled. We know it was warm when the 25-yard target was shot and cold when the 50-yard targets were shot.

And that’s about the only difference — other than I did remove the TKO silencer after shooting 25 yards. I think what I will do next is the following.

1. Clean the barrel.

2. Shoot 5 groups at 25 yards with the JSB Exact RS pellet.

3. Clean the barrel again.

4. Shoot another 5 targets at 50 yards.

One last feature I want to show you is the special optional barrel band Lloyd makes for the Disco Double. It has a Picatinny rail on the bottom, allowing you to attach a bipod at just the right spot with very little extra weight added to the gun.

Disco Double barrel band
This optional barrel band has a Picatinny rail on the bottom to accept a bipod.

Disco Double on bipod
The Disco Double on its bipod. Photo provided by Lloyd Sikes.

Summary
When I originally tested the .22-caliber Benjamin Discovery rifle in 2007, it was a pre-production prototype that was made out of a Crosman 2260. I shot several approximately half-inch groups at 50 yards with Crosman Premier pellets, but they were 5-shot groups. Now, I’m shooting 10-shots groups that I know are going to be larger. I didn’t use the JSB Exact RS pellet because it didn’t exist back then.

I believe this lightweight Disco Double has more accuracy than we’ve seen to this point. I think it must be capable of shooting at least one 1-inch group out of 5 at 50 yards. So, the test continues.

AirForce EscapeUL: Part 1

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

AirForce Escape: Part 1
AirForce Escape: Part 2
AirForce Escape: Part 3

I’m testing 3 AirForce guns together — the Escape, the EscapeUL and the EscapeSS. All 3 are based on the same powerplant that is derived from the TalonP pistol. That’s why I am grouping them together like this. But each rifle has its own unique characteristics, too. And this is our look at the EscapeUL, which is the ultralight version of the rifle. It’s the lightest of the 3 air rifles and comes in either .22 or .25 caliber. I’m testing a .25.

Escape Escape SS Escape Ultralight
Escape on top, then Escape SS and finally Escape Ultralight on the bottom.

As you will remember, the Escape is a collaboration between AirForce Airguns and Ton Jones, the star of television’s Auction Hunters. Ton had the requirement for a survival airgun and came up with the idea of putting a longer barrel on the TalonP pistol action, and AirForce did the engineering and development that turned it into a production rifle.

What does survival mean?
Survival is a word that’s charged with emotion, so the definition depends on the person who is using it. For many people, the term connotes a human wave attack with bullets and missiles flying everywhere — a last stand at the Alamo. But is that what survival really means? If you’re in the Alamo at that moment, I guess you would agree with that definition, but most of us will thankfully never be in that situation. But every year, millions of people are thrust into real survival situations.

Hurricane Sandy, a force 5 tornado, a blizzard that won’t stop or just having your truck break down 20 miles off Old Lincoln Highway outside Ely, Nevada, in the late summertime can all qualify as survival situations. Maybe all you have to do is hold out for 2 days before someone comes looking for you. You were exploring an old ghost town, and now they want to add you to the town rolls!

You don’t need a track-mounted machine gun or a Patriot missile launcher, but it sure would be nice to know you could defend yourself if a wild dog showed up! Or, if you had some way of popping one of those elusive prairie chickens that run along the ground and seem to stay just outside throwing distance. So, in your truck, along with the extra water, gasoline, MREs and sleeping bag (with cot, for this is the desert) you have a small canvas bag. Inside is a scoped EscapeUL, a hand pump and a tin of pellets. The rifle has been sighted-in, but you check it with one shot at an MRE wrapper stuck on a creosote bush 40 yards away — just to be sure. Then lay the rifle on top of the bag on the ground and put 10 pump strokes back in — 7 to get the air line up to pressure and 3 for the shot you just fired — and everything is good to go. The bag weighs 12 lbs., total, and has straps for shoulder carry. That’s what we mean by a survival airgun.

We took a good look at the Escape rifle for both power and accuracy and found that it can be plenty accurate when you use the right combination of pellets and pressures. Ton has pronounced it good to go, and his logo is on every Escape made.

The EscapeUL, however, is an AirForce idea. Ton knows about it and did test it, but it doesn’t bear his logo. It has slightly different features for a person with slightly different needs.

The EscapeUL is designed to remove all unnecessary weight from the rifle, while retaining as much of the power as possible. It has an 18-inch barrel instead of the Escape’s 24-inch barrel, so some velocity is lost. We’ll see how much in a moment.

The barrel isn’t just shorter, it is also thinner. Instead of a nominal 16mm diameter for the Escape barrel, the UL barrel is just 12mm. That diameter is only nominal. Some comes off when the barrel is ground before bluing. The barrel on my test rifle measures 0.477 inches across, which translates to 12.1158mm.

The net weight of the EscapeUL is 4.25 lbs., making it several pounds less than most precharged rifles and even less than some of the lightest ones.

EscapeUL barrel thickness
The EscapeUL barrel (bottom) is thinner than the Escape barrel, saving weight.

Of course, we all want to know what a thinner barrel means as far as accuracy goes. That test will be next. But now, let’s take a look at power.

The EscapeUL shares the same 213cc Spin-Loc air reservoir as the Escape and TalonP pistol, so the number of shots per fill is going to be about the same. Physics being what they are, we already know what to expect. The powerplant is also the same. The same valve in the tank and same striker weight and spring tension will give similar performance. It’s the 18-inch barrel that makes the difference.

With the heaviest .25-caliber pellet, which is the Eun Jin pointed pellet that weighs 43.2 grains, the maximum velocity in the 18-inch barrel is about 910 f.p.s. The 24-inch Escape barrel gave a maximum of 1010 f.p.s. with the same pellet, so the UL barrel loses about 100 f.p.s. In term of muzzle energy, that’s 79.46 foot-pounds on the first shot, compared to the 97.88 foot-pounds for the Escape.

As with the Escape, the velocity drops with each succeeding shot. By shot 5, the velocity will be down to 855 f.p.s. That carries an energy of 70.14 foot-pounds.

In .22 caliber, the energies are all lower because the pellets are lighter. With a 28.4-grain Eun Jin dome the maximum velocity is 980 f.p.s. on the first shot. That’s 60.58 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. By shot 5, the pellet leaves the muzzle at 900 f.p.s. and generates 51.09 foot-pounds.

You can discuss their performance in several different ways; but to my way of thinking, the Escape rifles are best in .25 caliber. I’m glad that’s the way I will be testing this one.

EscapeUL
The AirForce EscapeUL is a lightweight PCP with the Escape powerplant. The shorter slender barrel reduces the weight.

The trigger, adjustable stock, automatic safety and scope mounts are identical to those found on the Escape. It’s plenty for a scope, scope level, tactical flashlight and laser. There’s even enough for a coffee grinder, if you can find one that will fit!

Some thoughts
I’ve already been asked if the Escape rifles will run on CO2. They should, but it will need to be tested to say for sure. Since they were not designed to operate on CO2, I’ll have to find a way of filling the reservoir. No CO2 coupling I know of will mate with an air coupling, so it may take me some time to work it out.

I’ve also been asked on the back channel how quiet these airguns can be. Quite frankly, I don’t know. Given all the technology in the world, they can probably be made quieter than a Marauder; but once I answer that, the next question will be if all that technology can be reduced in size to fit in a pocket! We criticize the U.S. Air Force for asking that everything be made from unobtainium (strongest metal known whose forms weigh nothing and add lift to airframes), yet we do the same thing when it comes to powerful airguns. “Great,” we say, “but can they also be quiet and get lots of shots, too?”

There’s survival and then there’s daydreaming. We’re talking survival here.

Building the $100 precharged pneumatic air rifle: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

$100 PCP
The $100 PCP is built on a Crosman 2100B chassis.

This test was very interesting! It began last week at my outdoor rifle range. Blog reader GunFun1 asked me to try shooting steel BBs in this gun because it was originally built to handle them (when it was in its Crosman 2100B form). I didn’t want to do it because this rifle launches the first couple shots at over 900 f.p.s., and steel BBs rebound like crazy (You’ll shoot your eye out), but I did relent. Last week, I took this rifle to my outdoor range and stuck a 12-inch Shoot-N-C target on the plywood target backer. I then paced off 10 meters and fired 10 BBs at this target.

I thought the BBs would probably miss the target altogether. I said as much to GunFun1 in my comments a few weeks ago. But they didn’t!

I was wrong about this. Shooting offhand with open sights, I put 10 Daisy Premium Grade steel BBs into 1.56 inches. It was actually 11 BBs. I must have miscounted during shooting. I was astounded! This isn’t just good — it’s great! You don’t shoot BB guns at 10 meters when you’re shooting groups!

Daisy Premium Grade steel BB group
There are actually 11 Daisy BBs in this 1.56-inch group. Shot offhand with open sights at 10 meters.

Incidentally, all 10 BBs apparently went through the plywood target backer. Of course, there are other bullet holes there, so the wood isn’t always present or at its thickest; still, it shows those BBs are moving!

That got me wondering just how accurate this rifle could be. I decided to shoot from 25 yards with open sights, only. I’ll come back and shoot with an optical sight of some kind, but this test is just open sights.

I filled the gun to 2,000 psi for every 10 shots, including for the BBs shown above. After 10 shots, the gun’s pressure has dropped to 1,000 psi.

Crosman Premier lite
The first group of 10 shots was shot with Crosman Premier lites. Based on the 10-meter results for the last test, and also from where the BBs went, I adjusted the rear sight to the right just a little. After the first shot, I looked through the spotting scope to affirm it hit the target. It did, was high above the bullseye and fairly well-centered left and right. So, I left the sights where they were and fired a second shot. When I looked through the spotting scope, I saw it had gone through the same hole as the first! Wow! That was starting out well!

The first 4 shots all went into the same hole. Then shot 5 went higher for some reason.

Crosman Premier lite 5-shot group
The first 4 shots are in 0.179 inches. Shot 5 opened it up to 0.838 inches.

After taking the picture of the first 5 shots, I shot the remaining 5 shots. That was informative because all the shots spread out to the left. Having the first 5 shots on record allowed me to see that the second 5 were the ones that actually spread out. The 10-shot group measures 1.358 inches between centers.

Crosman Premier lite 10-shot group
Ten Crosman Premier lites went into 1.358 inches at 25 yards. That’s rested and using open sights. See how the last 5 went to the left and opened up?

RWS Hobbys
Next up were RWS Hobby pellets. They did quite well at 10 meters, but 25 yards is about the maximum distance at which wadcutter pellets hold their accuracy.

I adjusted the rear sight down one notch before shooting this group. Once more, I photographed the target after 5 shots.

RWS Hobby lite 5-shot group
The first 5 RWS Hobbys looked pretty good. Shot 1 was a 10!

$100 PCP RWS Hobby 10-shot group
So Hobbys held together fairly well at 25 yards. Ten went into a group measuring 1.144 inches between centers.

Air Arms Falcons
The last pellet I tested was the Air Arms Falcon pellet. This time, the first 5 pellets didn’t seem to do that well. And when we see the final 10-shot group, it isn’t that much larger.

Air Arms Falcon 5-shot group
The first 5 Falcon pellets didn’t do so well.

$100 PCP Air Arms Falcon 10-shot-group
This is one of those rare instances where 10 shots are not much larger than 5. Ten Air Arms Falcons went into 1.912 inches.

Conclusions so far
This experiment is turning out much better than I had hoped. Not only have we demonstrated that it’s possible to make a precharged pneumatic rifle that can retail for under $100, we’re now showing that it can really perform! Of course, the production gun will get many more shots on a fill than the 10 I’m getting, but I do think the maximum fill pressure should be held to 2,000 psi. That will make it easier to build an affordable hand pump, which Dennis Quackenbush is thinking about right now.

The discharge noise of this rifle is quite loud. I was going to recommend not putting a shroud on the gun, but I’m going to change my mind on that point. The customers for this gun will be suburban shooters who need a quieter air rifle, so some sound dampening is necessary.

The trigger on the rifle is heavy, and I would leave it the way it is. I would also leave the bolt-action exactly the way it is on the 2100B. The same goes for the sights. These are refinements people can pay for on higher-priced PCPs. We want to hold the cost of this gun to less than $100 retail.

I do plan on returning to test this rifle at least one more time with an optical sight. That will show the maximum accuracy potential, although I believe we’ve already seen a good indication of it in this test.

The $100 PCP will never replace the higher-priced PCPs that are already selling. It isn’t supposed to. It’s supposed to provide that entry-level step for those who are curious about precharged airguns and don’t want to spend a fortune to find out. I think it’s a very feasible goal and, quite possibly, a profitable one, as well.

The invisible airgunner

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

You always think the rest of the world thinks like you, until something shocks you awake. I’ve experienced this repeated times when it comes to airguns. I guess the first time was at the NRA Airgun Breakfast at a SHOT Show about 10-12 years ago. I was standing in the room talking to the late Bill Saunders of Air Arms when I noticed that a couple other gentlemen had silently walked up and were listening to us. Then, Ken asked me the question I have since come to recognize as a serious plea. He asked me where all the airgunners were in America.

He said his company had only been able to connect with about 30,000 serious airgunners, and he wondered where all the rest of them were. The look in his eye, and in the eyes of those around us, told me this was a very serious question. I told him that I knew of only about 15,000-30,000 serious airgunners (at that time), but that probably half of all firearms owners also owned at least one airgun. There are over 10 million firearms owners in this country, but most of them don’t think of themselves as airgunners. After a few more polite questions, the breakfast began and I thought that was it.

But the same thing has happened to me countless other times. Usually the person doing the asking is from the UK or Europe, but more recently I have had American gun company executives ask the same question.

So, about five years ago I took it upon myself to ask someone from the UK what the big deal was. Why was everyone concerned where the American airgunners were? And he told me! And I was stunned!

The whole world apparently thinks there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of active airgunners in the United States, and that people like me are keeping the lid on who these people are and where they can be found. Why I would do that is a mystery; but since I can’t tell them what they want to know, I must have my reasons.

The NRA does me no favors in this respect because at these Airgun Breakfasts (which are, unfortunately, no longer held), they used to tell all the airgun manufacturers about the tens of thousands of active shooting clubs and the hundreds of thousands of youth marksmen (and let’s be honest — just as many markswomen) there are in the United States. They weren’t lying, either. At the last breakfast ever held, they briefed us that there were over one million youth shooters in 74,000 clubs in the U.S.

If I were a UK airgun maker and heard that, I would assume that either the NRA is making this up or that Tom Gaylord is keeping secrets. Well, here’s the thing. The NRA is not lying — there are, indeed, that many youth shooters in this country. But the moment they graduate from their marksmanship programs, almost none of them continue to shoot! They go on to have lives and develop other interests, but shooting isn’t often one of them. Be honest with yourselves — have you built a Pinewood Derby racer recently? We grow up, and our interests change.

Looking for airgunners in the United States by examining numbers like these is like trying to find snowflakes in Miami in July. You’re looking in the wrong place. But at least the weather’s warm!

But wait!
Here’s the rest of the story. There really are hundreds of thousands of active airgunners in the United States! But you’ll see about as many of them as you do herds of Sasquatch. They’re invisible!

By invisible, I mean these people do not identify themselves as airgunners. If you ask them, they probably don’t even know that they are.

Europeans like to define themselves by what they do. Sports are big in Europe; and if you engage in a sport, that’s one way you see yourself. If you play football (and I mean soccer), you’re a football player. I don’t care if you play in pickup games that are randomly organized, although knowing the European bent for organization, I don’t even know why I said that. A group of 50-year-old European footballers is just as likely to have flashy new uniforms and matching Adidas as a college team.

Not so, the American airgunner. He is more likely to shoot his airguns by himself, where nobody can see or hear him. I once knew a fellow who owned as many as 10 vintage 10-meter target rifles. Know what he did with them? He shot at fluorescent light bulbs in his basement! He liked the way they popped!

The vast majority of American airgunners are not in the sport for camaraderie. They’re in it for personal satisfaction; and the less others know about it, the better. I’m sure those who spend time on social networks will squirm like salted slugs when reading this, but a lot of people do not like the other fellow looking over their shoulder. So, there are a couple thousand vocal U.S. airgunners on chat forums and maybe more than a million hiding in the closet.

The European manufacturers keep looking for that vast group of people who surely must exist in this country, and they’ll have as much luck as someone who hunts for cockroaches with a searchlight. Yet we all know cockroaches exist — just like American airgunners exist. What gives?

Finding airgunners
You want to find cockroaches? Leave food out and they will find it. You want to find U.S. airgunners? Build the kind of airguns they want to own, and they’ll find you.

Crosman knows this. Their new Nitro Piston 2 is like a pool of honey spilled on the kitchen floor. It’s gonna be swarming soon. Their Marauder rifle is already covered with writhing airgunners!

AirForce Airguns knows it, too. Their airguns are like American iron. Ain’t nobody don’t like a GTO or a Harley — or a Condor!

And there are others. Umarex tempts us with the new Walther LGV. Sure it’s expensive for a breakbarrel and sure, everyone will complain about the price on the internet. A lot of them will buy one, too.

I could go on this way for a while, because some other airgun companies are discovering the secret and are starting to do something about it. I can’t name them all, but let Hatsan USA be the example. They started in this country a few years ago with a stable of overly powerful spring rifles that all cocked like the bow of Hercules. They were the airgun equivalent of Raid! But this year, they’re bringing out their new AT-44 Long QuietEnergy — a powerful, accurate, quiet repeating air rifle with a light trigger and a low price. That’s honey on the floor!

That’s the message
That’s my message today. The American airgunner is invisible for the most part. You can draw him out with guns of quality, but you can’t flush him out with high velocity, camo paint and bundled “deals” on things you can’t sell through normal channels. Yes, velocity sells, but it isn’t the recommended way to go. Pogo sticks work well in minefields, too.

What now?
After pouring a lot of thought into this report, I’ll now go somewhere and be buttonholed by another airgun manufacturing executive who will ask me in hushed tones, “So, just how fast do our airguns have to shoot to sell them to all these hidden airgunners?”

Indeed! How dim must a searchlight be to keep the cockroaches from scattering?

R.A.I. adjustable AR stock adapter: Part 2

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

Part 1

Today, I’ll begin testing the R.A.I. AR adjustable stock adapter from rarmsinnovations.com with the UTG Pro 6-position adjustable stock attached to the Benjamin Marauder pistol.

Length of pull
Before we begin, I want to say a word about the length of pull you get with this adapter. I gave the range of lengths in Part 1 as 14-1/8 inches to 17-1/8 inches, and that turned off many readers. In terms of conventional stocks, that pull range is very long! But Dave Rensing, who invented this adapter, made it for his 8-year-old son and his 7-year-old daughter. The son uses it conventionally, but the daughter collapses the stock past the first detent so it’s even shorter. Fully collapsed, the pull length measures exactly 14 inches but feels like 11 inches.

The AR adjustable stock is not very ergonomic. It stretches and contracts okay, but it doesn’t move in the other directions. It’s a one-size fits none kind of deal — at least from a rifle marksmanship standpoint. While it works very well for fast maneuvering and climbing in and out of tight places, your body has to adapt a lot to make it work.

On the other hand, when the R.A.I. adapter is added to it, the stock becomes almost universal! You can adjust the positions of the comb and the angles of the buttstock through a wide range of attitudes and make it fit almost anyone — young or old. I found when shooting from the bench that even the 15-1/8-inch pull I had initially set up was too short. I had to move the stock back until the pull was 15-7/8-inches before it felt natural again. However, in the offhand position, the 15-1/8-inch pull is the right one. That demonstrates why the adjustable stock works so well on this pistol! You can adjust it to whatever you need in the blink of an eye.

I discovered why this is. The AR adjustable stock has no width. The narrow tube is where your cheek rests, so your eye is closer to the centerline of the pistol than it would be with a conventional stock. The stock also does not drop at the butt, so your head thrusts forward farther than it might with a conventional stock. Instead of sticking up to rest on the cheekpiece, your head tilts forward, along the straight tube. Hence, 14 inches feels more like 11 inches. The Marauder’s pistol grip and close trigger enhance this feeling.

Benjamin Marauder Pistol Tom holding offhand
Here I’m holding the carbine offhand. The pull seen here is 15-1/8 inches, and yet the rifle feels perfect. You can see that my head has gone forward on the stock because it’s so straight.

Scope and mounts
I wanted to test the pistol with a really good scope; and the last time I tested the Marauder  I used a CenterPoint 3-12X44 compact scope. Leapers was making CenterPoint scopes back then, so this time I attached a UTG 3-12X44 compact scope. My scope is older than the one I linked to, but the optics and overall size are the same. Not only does this scope fit the carbine very well, it gives a crystal clear sight picture that makes aiming so easy.

I needed to get the scope high off the receiver because the Marauder pistol has a circular 8-shot magazine that sticks up above the receiver top. You can see it in the above photo. Also, the stock’s straight line puts my head higher than it would normally be. So, high scope rings are in order. I selected a pair of BKL 30mm high rings that have a single-screw top strap. The Marauder pistol doesn’t recoil, so these rings can be made thinner and still be strong enough to hold this scope. Once they were mounted, I noted they brought the scope’s exit pupil directly to my eye, making them the perfect height.

Testing the Marauder carbine
I tested this Marauder pistol extensively, back in 2010/2011. I already knew the right fill pressure (2,900 psi), the best pellet (.22-caliber Beeman Kodiak) and the effective number of shots per fill (32). Since it has an 8-shot magazine, I shot 8-shot groups instead of 10.

Sight-in went quick, and then I backed up to 25 yards and started shooting. The first group of Kodiaks was the second-best of the session, putting 8 into 0.554 inches. Looking back at the tests I did years ago, I wasn’t shooting as well on this day as I did back then. I shot a total of six 8-shot groups, and the largest one was 0.607 inches, while the smallest was 0.504 inches between centers.

Benjamin Marauder Pistol first group
The first group was 8 Kodiaks into 0.554 inches at 25 yards.

Benjamin Marauder Pistol largest group
The worst group of the day was 8 Kodiaks in 0.607 inches at 25 yards.

Benjamin Marauder pistol smallest group
The best group of the day was 0.504-inches for 8 Kodiaks at 25 yards.

While these groups are okay, they aren’t as small as the groups I shot previously. I don’t think it was me or the gun. In this case, I think it was the pellet. I used a different tin of Kodiaks in 2010, and they grouped much tighter in this pistol than these did. The best group back then was 0.405 inches between centers. Maybe they had larger heads, or maybe they were just different in some unquantifiable way.

Other pellets
I tried a number of different pellets in the Marauder pistol, but none of them did very well. JSBs of various weights, which I thought would do well, sprayed all over the place. I know from testing the gun that it wants a fat pellet, and the Kodiak is a good one for that. It’s slow, at an average 584 f.p.s., but even at that it produces about 16 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That’s pretty good for an air pistol! Certainly enough for some hunting and pest elimination.

The rest of the test
I plan to take this pistol to the 50-yard range, so you’ll see the results of that. But I don’t think that’s quite the right way to test the R.A.I. adapter and adjustable stock. We already know how well the pistol performs. Now, we want the focus to be on the adapter and the stock.

Maybe I can put the gun in the hands of some other shooters and see how well it fits them. Perhaps, that’s the best way to evaluate this item. I don’t know, but I guess we’ll see.

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