Archive for June 2014

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2: Part 5

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

• Here we go, again
• Out of the box
• Cocking
• Barrel bushings
• Scope base welds
• Pillar bedding!
• Good to go
• Crosman Premiers
• Beeman Kodiaks
• Crosman SSP
• Trigger
• Evaluation thus far
• Reminder from PyramydAir.com

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2
Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2

Here we go, again
Today, I’m starting our look at the second Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2. This rifle was sent from Crosman to Pyramyd Air especially for me to test, so we know that it’s the absolute best that they can do with the NP2 design. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that. I’m telling all the Crosman ankle-biters that I do acknowledge that this rifle has been thoroughly examined by Crosman before sending it to me — just to stop them from saying it. This is the same thing I recently did with the Daisy 880.

The first NP2 I tested came straight from the factory and was completely random. And you saw how well it turned out. You also saw that it needed a little time to break in before the cocking effort dropped to where we thought it should be. You also saw how I had to learn to hold the rifle for best accuracy. That shouldn’t happen with this one because I know how to hold it now.

I do plan on installing the scope that comes packed with the rifle for my test. We had one negative reader comment about me switching the scope on the other rifle, and doing it this way should end that complaint.

Out of the box
Several of you asked me to go over the second rifle thoroughly to see how it differs from the first rifle I tested. This rifle is also a .22-caliber model in a wood stock; so from the outside, it appears very much the same. But one curious thing I noted is that this rifle does have a wood screw holding the front of the triggerguard to the stock. You may remember I showed you the other rifle didn’t have the screw, even though the triggerguard has a hole for it.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 triggerguard
This photo shows both screws in the triggerguard.

I went over the entire rifle, looking for differences, but none came to light. I shined a tactical flashlight down the muzzle and noted that the baffles are not obstructing the muzzle. So, the rifle seems good to go.

Cocking
I cocked it, just to see how that felt, and I was transported back to the SHOT Show! This rifle cocks with between 25-27 lbs. of effort. I found the barrel pivot joint was too loose for the barrel to remain in place after the rifle has been cocked. You normally want it to stay in one place, but I say that advisedly, because this NP2 might teach us a thing of two. Crosman designed this rifle with a pivot bolt instead of just a plain pin, so the pivot joint can be tightened whenever necessary. I took the action out of the stock to do this, and that’s when I noticed a number of things.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 pivot bolt
The NP2 barrel pivot bolt is slotted so it can be tightened. That wasn’t necessary on the rifle I’m testing.

Barrel bushings
First, the barrel does indeed have a screw, but it was already tight on this gun. Then, I shined a flashlight through the action forks and the breech joint and noticed that there are probably bearings (what some would call shims) at the pivot joint. So, the barrel can be tight and yet still flop up and down after it’s cocked. We need to learn from this; because if this rifle is accurate, Crosman has done something new. Their barrel may be looser than other breakbarrels of the past and yet still be accurate.

Scope base welds
The welds on the scope base are much more visible on this second test rifle. I know that Crosman did take action on this issue right away after the first guns were launched.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 scope base welds
The scope base welds are much more visible on this new rifle. They’re the bright lines under each foot on the base.

Pillar bedding!
Second, I found a u-shaped piece of steel on the floor after removing the stock. When I examined the stock, I found out what it is — pillar bedding! We’ve recently discussed this on this blog, and Crosman has apparently gone and done it. The interesting thing is that they didn’t mention it in their advertising! How could they have missed announcing an important feature like this? Shooters are paying hundreds of dollars to have their rifles pillar bedded, and Crosman has gone and done it for free and kept it a secret!

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 steel bushing
This u-shaped bushing or spacer serves as a pillar to separate the triggerguard screw from the action. This is pillar bedding on an airgun!

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 steel bushing in stock
When the steel bushing is in the stock, it’s impossible to over-tighten the rear stock screw. This is how pillar bedding works. It keeps the wood from being crushed.

The 2 forward stock screw heads bear directly against the wood of the stock, so they’ll need washers to spread their load; but the NP2 is bedded better than 80 percent of the top-end spring rifles on the market.

Good to go
I assembled the rifle and found the barrel does not wobble side to side, yet it still flops after it’s cocked. This means the barrel pivot joint is adding very little resistance to the cocking effort. Now, it was time to start the velocity test.

Crosman Premiers
The first pellet up was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier that I believe will be one of the most accurate pellets for this rifle. Ten of them averaged 823 f.p.s. — a whopping 78 f.p.s. gain over the broken-in velocity of the first test rifle. And the cocking effort is still 5-7 lbs. lighter!

Best of all, Premiers varied by only 5 f.p.s. over the 10-shot spread — from 821 to 826 f.p.s. That’s phenomenal! It’s in PCP territory, and I’m talking about a regulated gun. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 21.51 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Beeman Kodiaks
Next, I tried 21.1-grain Beeman Kodiaks. As powerful as this rifle is, it should handle them okay. They averaged 646 f.p.s., which means a muzzle energy of 19.46 foot-pounds. The spread for this heavyweight pellet was 12 f.p.s., ranging from 639 to 651 f.p.s.

You might wonder why I didn’t test the JSB Exact RS dome in this rifle since I did test it in the first rifle. The reason was the poor performance we saw in that first velocity test. I decided to switch to the Kodiaks rather than test a pellet that might not be suited to this powerplant.

Crosman SSP
The last pellet I tested was the 9.5-grain lead-free Crosman SSP pointed pellet. They averaged 1023 f.p.s. from the NP2, with a 55 f.p.s. spread that ranged from 992 f.p.s. to 1047 f.p.s. This is getting up close to the 1100 f.p.s. velocity that’s printed on the outside of the NP2 box. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 22.08 foot-pounds of energy.

Trigger
The trigger on this new test rifle feels very similar to the one I tested on the first rifle. The first stage is long and heavy, measuring 3 lbs., 6 oz. to stage 2. Stage 2 was breaking at over 6 lbs. out of the box, but I adjusted it to 4 lbs., 4 oz., which is exactly the same as the first trigger. This is a very good trigger for a sporting airgun — especially considering the price!

Evaluation thus far
This is more like the rifle I shot back in January. I think anyone would be happy with this one; and if they aren’t, then they should reconsider getting a gas-spring air rifle altogether. I sure hope this rifle is at least as accurate as the first one turned out to be.

Reminder from PyramydAir.com
Pyramyd Air’s marketing department wants to remind our blog readers that today (Mon. 6/30/14) is the last day you can enter their Son of a Gun Giveaway for the June prize, which is the Benjamin NP Limited rifle!

They’ve now started their 4th of July countdown of deals! There’s a special coupon that lets you combine a discount with their free shipping promotion and you’ll get double Bullseye Bucks. Plus, more deals are going to coming via email. If you’re not signed up to receive their email promos, go to Pyramyd Air’s home page and enter your email address in the space to the left of the word SUBSCRIBE.

B.B. looks at gas springs

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

This report covers:

• What to call them
• Can gas be a spring?
• Confusion reigned supreme
• We bought one
• Meet Ben Taylor
• It worked!
• Ft. Worth airgun show

What to call them
Today, I want to tell you about the saga I had when I got into gas-spring airguns. Let’s start with the name. Some folks call them gas struts, while others call them gas rams. Some, like Crosman and Gamo, use trademarked names like Nitro Piston and Inert Gas Technology to name their gas springs. But the industry that makes the units calls them gas springs.

They’re called struts when used in assemblies, like the MacPherson strut in a car’s suspension or the suspension strut on an airplane’s landing gear. I don’t know where the term “ram” comes from, but I’m sure there’s a reason people use it.

Can gas be a spring?
Boy, does this terminology ever throw some people! They cannot accept the idea of gas being a spring, because they know that the gas has to be contained inside something before it can work in that manner. So they object to calling these units “springs.”

A gas-spring unit is a cylinder-like device with two halves that slide in and out. Inside the spring, compressed air or sometimes another gas such as nitrogen is permanently contained. When the two halves slide together, they compress the gas inside and raise the pressure. That causes the two halves to spring apart with force. Inexpensive gas springs are used in many places where coiled steel springs used to be. They’re cheaper to make and can last far longer without degrading — depending on how they’re made.

When I started writing about airguns in 1994, gas springs were just coming into the picture. Theoben, an airgun company in the United Kingdom, was an early leader in the field of gas-spring airguns. There was also a factory in Argentina making them, though their distribution base was smaller. I didn’t find out about them until the late ’90s.

Theoben was founded by co-owners, Dave THEObald and BEN Taylor. I mention that because of what happened to me later, when Ben Taylor talked to me at the SHOT Show.

Confusion reigned supreme
In the early days, the British airgun magazines were loaded with articles about Theobens! Americans were importing them privately at first, then Air Rifle Specialists out of New York state began importing them. Davis Schwesinger was the owner of that company. A few years later, the Beeman company stepped in with their Crow Magnum, which was a Theoben Eliminator in a slightly different stock. After that, Theobens were in the U.S. to stay.

I was writing about airguns by this time, so I chanced to encounter these guns from time to time. My first encounter was not with the powerful Eliminator/Crow Magnum, but with the lowest-powered Theoben ever made, the thoroughly delightful Fenman. Someone had one and allowed me to shoot it at a silhouette shoot in Virginia. I was amazed at how accurate the little rifle was. I was hitting rams at 45 yards offhand, which is way beyond my normal ability. But the rifle was accurate, lightweight, attractive and easy to cock for a gas-spring gun. I say it that way because, even though it produced just 12 foot-pounds, the Fenman cocked with about 40 lbs. of effort. That was mostly due to its short barrel. If you’re interested in my experiences with a Fenman you can read about it here.

We bought one
I decided that I needed to get on the gas spring bandwagon if I was going to write about airguns with any authority. So, Edith and I bought a brand-new Beeman Crow Magnum in .25 caliber. I bought the Beeman because of the name. I figured they would back up the gun no matter what happened. I bought the .25-caliber only because they didn’t offer one in .26. I wanted the biggest, baddest spring-piston air rifle in the world, and the Crow Magnum/Eliminator was it at the time. Well, yes, there was also the equally powerful handmade Whiscombe, but they were out of my price range at the time.

Beeman Crow Magnum
We bought a Beeman Crow Magnum in .25 caliber to test it. What we found was not popular!

I began testing the rifle for my Airgun Letter, and that was when the ship hit the sand! I was getting results that nobody else talked about, and my experiences were far different from those in print. For starters, I decided to shoot the big rifle 1,000 times to break it in. I shot at paper targets 10 meters away and fired 50 shots at each bull. Fifty were all the shots I could fire in one session, using both arms to cock the 60-lb. breakbarrel. And my groups were about two inches in diameter! Two inches at 10 meters! Oh, boy, did that ever get people talking!

Folks immediately started saying that I was doing things wrong and that surely this big rifle couldn’t be that difficult to cock. The Beeman company called and told me to let some of the air out of the gas spring, because Theobens had that ability and I had purchased the optional pump. So, I did. I let out enough air pressure to drop the cocking effort to 46 lbs., and the power stayed almost where it had been. It was easier to cock but still inaccurate.

Gas springTheoben guns had a screw that covered the access to their gas springs.

gas springRemove the screw and attach a hand pump to fill the gas spring. A narrow rod pressed in on the Schraeder valve to release pressure.

I had a visit from a Theoben owner who owned several of the guns. He came to my house, and we both shot our .25-caliber rifles at 10 meters, getting one-inch 5-shot groups! That made it real and no amount of talking could change it. Then, he told me that .25 was not the best caliber for the rifle. If I wanted it to shoot accurately, I needed to get a .20 caliber. Another reader of my newsletter loaned me his Eliminator that he said had been filled with pure nitrogen to reduce the cocking effort; but when I measured it, it still came to 45 lbs. And, it was no more accurate than my rifle.

I contacted Davis Schwesinger of Air Rifle Specialists, and he swapped my .25 barrel for a .20. While he had my gun, he went through it and found that my piston seal was okay. He said he did that because too many Theoben owners had over-pressurized their gas springs and burned up their piston seals. I reported all of this in The Airgun Letter, and the hate mail poured in! I kept trying to shoot good groups with the new .20-caliber barrel. While it was better than the .25, it was still unacceptable.

burned piston seal
This Theoben Eliminator seal was melted from the heat of excessive compression, caused by over-pressurizing the gas-piston unit. Davis Schwesinger replaced this seal (and many others) for customers who didn’t understand they were hurting their guns. This is not a seal from my rifle.

Meet Ben Taylor
Then, I went to the SHOT Show and met Ben Taylor. In fact, he sought me out. He told me that my experiences with his rifles were normal, and that the airgunning world had a distorted view of gas-spring technology. He first told me to clean my barrel. In those days I didn’t believe in cleaning airgun barrels, but Taylor told me to use J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound on a brass or bronze bore brush and to run it fully through the barrel 20 times in both directions. Does that sound familiar?

He also told me to shoot Crosman Premier pellets in my .20-caliber rifle and to lubricate them with a mixture he called Whiscombe Honey. He told me to make it with a mixture of STP Engine Oil Treatment (the real thick stuff) and a good gun oil such as Hoppes. Use equal parts of both by volume and stir them thoroughly. I mixed up a batch that I still use to this day. He told me that John Whiscombe had discovered this mixture worked great in his powerful rifles and that Theoben recommended it.

Taylor also cautioned me to not over-pressurize the gas spring in my gun. Of course, I already knew this, but he told me this was the No. 1 problem his guns had. Owners looking for the last foot per second were over-pressurizing their springs and actually reducing the power the guns put out! He said they refused to believe that more was not better. Those who didn’t own a chronograph were ruining their airguns. There’s a maximum pressure for the gas piston and going above it does not increase the piston’s speed. He said these owners turned their airguns into slide hammers that beat themselves apart to no advantage.

It worked!
I talked with Taylor for about a half hour. The man was completely honest with me, which was refreshing after the tidal wave of propaganda I’d been getting. I returned home, cleaned my barrel, set the gas spring at 45 lbs. and proceeded to shoot the first one-inch group ever at 40 yards. What do you know — the darned thing actually works when you do it right!

Since that time, I’ve shot dozens of different gas-spring airguns. RWS USA imported some that Theoben made especially for them, and I found them to be delightful when used correctly. Tom Gore of Vortek started manufacturing gas springs for various models of Weihrauchs, and I got to test them before anyone. I still have one of his units he made for my R1; and after 15 years, it still works like new.

The best modern gas-spring guns I have tested were the Gamo Whisper with a Vortek gas spring installed by Air Venturi. That gun cocked easily and had virtually no movement or vibration! It was a dream! But it didn’t last long in the market.

Crosman signed a deal with Vortek that got them into the gas-spring business. One of their early guns was called the Benjamin Legacy. I still have mine. It’s a .22 breakbarrel that produces just over 12 foot-pounds and has all the attributes I want to see in a breakbarrel rifle. It’s easy to cock and very accurate. There’s almost no recoil and zero vibration! They also produced a Benjamin Trail Reduced Velocity for a short time, but very few were ever sold. People want power!

Alas, I’m in the minority for wanting spring guns that are reasonable. Most shooters want raw power, which is where we are today. Companies are giving people what they think they want at the expense of hard cocking, poor accuracy and painful vibration. And that — my friends — is why I like the new Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 so much.

The Crosman management team that runs the company today wasn’t around during all those years of gas-spring growing pains when things didn’t work as advertised. Yet, miraculously, one of their young engineers has discovered how to make a gas spring rifle that has the benefits of the best of them, and still produces credible power. Not uncanny power, but usable power in an accurate rifle.

If you’re new to airgunning, you may still have to experience some of these hard lessons yourself. Sometimes, that’s the only way to learn. You want the ultimate in power, and you assume that the accuracy will come right along with it. Only after you’ve been slapped around a while and then shoot a real smooth airgun will you appreciate the difference that a good, smooth gun can make.

Here’s the last thing I’ll say on this subject. I’ve seen people switch  hundreds of times to using good airguns, and each time it’s wonderful. An airgunner who has been pursuing the power trail finally shoots a well-tuned spring rifle that’s easy to cock and dead calm. That experience blows him away, and a new airgunner is born! I enjoy watching this happen, and I hope that it happens to all of you some day.

Ft. Worth airgun show
The Texas airgun show is on Saturday, September 6. Go here for a look at the show flier. All the registration information and hotel information is on the flier, plus the show hours and costs. The 4-H Club will cater food and drinks.

This show is stacking up to be the largest airgun show ever held! We already have the following vendors coming:

AirForce Airguns
Umarex USA
Hatsan USA
Dennis Quackenbush

The following companies say they will try to attend:

Daisy
Scott Pilkington
Neal Stepp (International Shooters Service)

Besides these major dealers, American Airgunner television will have a film crew at the show and host Rossi Morreale has been invited. Steve Criner, star of television’s Dog Soldier and also appearing on American Airgunner, will attend. We’ve invited big bore hunter Eric Henderson and Jim Chapman, who writes for Predator Extreme magazine, and many other airgun personalities. AirForce Airguns is trying to bring Ton Jones of television’s Auction Hunters to the show, if his schedule permits. Ton is the guy who created the idea for the AirForce Escape survival rifle, as you will remember.

The gun club holding the event has several of their members bringing airguns to sell on a combined club table. These guys have been asking for this show for the past two years and should bring out some interesting old guns for the first time.

The following door prizes and raffle prizes have been donated:

AirForce CondorSS
Air Venturi Bronco
Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE
Walther LGV Master Ultra

Other prizes and giveaways not yet determined will be given out at this show.

I expect a very large turnout for this show. I anticipate new private dealers with airguns that haven’t been seen at other shows, and I know there will be some gun dealers who will be bringing their airguns to sell.

Even better, the crowd at this show will not just be the usual people who attend airgun shows. Yes, many of them will be there and even have tables, but I expect to see hundreds of airgunners who have never been to an airgun show before. Because there will be both vintage guns and brand new guns for sale at the same show, they’ll see the best airgun show ever.

The gun club will be active that day, so there will also be firearms on the ranges. Therefore, the club is allowing firearms to be displayed at the show. Naturally, all firearms and airguns must be unloaded when indoors and must be tied to prevent operation. No dry-firing will be permitted indoors.

Besides the show, the club is giving us two ranges for airguns to be tested and demonstrated. These are located approximately 50 yards from the buildings that house the show. Chapman and Henderson will host a big bore range and demonstrate the guns to the public.

You may have thought about attending an airgun show or even having a table at a show. This is the show to attend! It happens in just a single day and will be exciting, fast-paced and full of surprises.

Tables are now filling fast. If you want one, don’t delay. Send your reservation check today!

Hakim air rifle: Part 1

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

Hakim
Hakim is a large, heavy military trainer made in the 1950s by Anschütz. This one is uncharacteristically beautiful.

This report covers:

• Hatsan 250XT TAC BOSS failed!
• History of the Hakim trainer
• Description of the rifle
• My own experience

Hatsan 250XT TAC BOSS failed
The Hatsan 250XT TAC-BOSS BB pistol failed to fire when I began the velocity test. The BBs refuse to leave the gun, and the trigger jams after one shot. I played with it for some time before pulling the plug. I’m sending this one back to Pyramyd Air, and I’ll ask for a replacement. I do plan on finishing this test when the new pistol arrives.

Hakim history
This failure catches me short today, so I’ll start reporting on the Hakim air rifle trainer made by Anschütz. The Hakim air rifle trainer is one of two trainers used by the Egyptian army to train soldiers to fire their 8mm Hakim battle rifle — a variation of the Swedish Ljungman semiautomatic rifle from World War II. The Egyptian Hakim was made after the war on the same machinery that made the Ljungman, and with the startup help of Swedish advisors. What’s known today as the “poor man’s Garand” and the “Egyptian Garand” lasted only for a few years before being replaced by more appropriate battle rifles. While it’s a fine design, the tolerances are so tight that it was ill-suited to field operations in a desert climate.

To train their soldiers with less expensive ammunition, the Egyptians had two different trainers. One was a semiautomatic .22 rimfire made for them by Beretta. It held 10 shots and looked similar to the 8mm Hakim rifle. The other was the air rifle we’ll start looking at today.

The Egyptians decided to let Anschütz turn their underlever sporting air rifle into a trainer for the Hakim. The result is a single-shot underlever spring rifle in .22 caliber. They contracted for them in 1954, and the model was 1955, I believe. I say “believe” because all the markings on the rifles are Arabic, and I cannot read them.

In the 1990s, the Egyptian government decided to divest themselves of their Hakim air rifle trainers, and many of them came to the United States. Navy Arms sold them for $65 each if you bought 4 at one time. I did and got two rifles that worked (after a fashion) right away and two that were rebuilt into working rifles. All these rifles were filled with sand (no kidding!) and several of them had numerous pellets and small nails embedded in their synthetic piston seals. [Note from Edith: I've written about this period of our lives before. It was as if the Exxon Valdez had somehow visited the Sahara desert and then docked in our house. Plus, the grease had an odor that permeated every room and slapped you in the face the minute you walked in the front door. Compared to that stench, the odor of Hoppes No. 9 smells like Chanel No. 5!]

Description of the rifle
The rifle is very large, at 44-3/4 inches overall and over 10 pounds in weight. The one I’m testing for you here weighs 10 lbs., 7 oz., but that will vary with the density of the wood — and there’s a LOT of wood on a Hakim! The length of pull is 13-1/4 inches, and the barrel is 19 inches in length.

Speaking of the wood, Edith always says that Hakims look like they’ve been drug behind a truck over a gravel road, then set on fire and put out with an axe — or something like that. [Note from Edith: And I was being kind when I said that. Tailings from a lumberyard look better!] I’ll admit that most of them don’t look very nice. That’s because they’re the worst kind of club guns — they’re army club guns! In other words, they never belonged to anyone, so everyone treated them poorly. We see the same thing in club-owned target rifles all the time.

The metal parts are Parkerized with a gray phosphate finish. Only the rear sight blade and the buttplate are blued steel. The rifle has sling swivels front and rear but no lug for mounting a bayonet. Other air rifle trainers such as the Czech VZ35 do mount bayonets, but I guess this one was getting too heavy as it was.

The front sight blade has a removable hood, and the rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. The curious triangular projection that stands up from the rear of the receiver has no known purpose but is supposed to simulate the triangular shape of the sliding bolt cover on a Hakim firearm. That bolt cover on the firearm has a wire loop that’s used to pull the cover back to retract the bolt when cocking the rifle.

Thingy
This thing on the Hakim air rifle has no known purpose beyond cosmetics. On the firearm, the triangular bolt cover has wire loops on either side to assist in cocking the bolt.

Front sight
This front sight blade has been flipped upside-down in its base and painted orange for better visibility. The hood snaps off.

The air rifle is an underlever that’s based on the BSA Airsporter of 1947. And you’re going to notice a more than passing resemblance to the Falke model 90 I showed you. When the underlever comes down to cock the rifle, it automatically rotates the loading tap to receive a pellet. The tap handle sticks up on the left side to alert the shooter to the tap’s status.

Hakim cocked
Pull the underlever down to cock the rifle. The loading tap opens automatically when this is done.

Tap closed
When the loading tap is closed, the lever lies against the left side of the stock.

Tao open
When the tap lever is up, the tap is open to accept a pellet. Load it nose first, then close the tap to align the chamber with the barrel and air transfer port.

One of the strange markings on Hakim trainers is the flaming skull located above the loading tap. I’ve been told that’s an insignia of a national guard or reserve-type unit in the Egyptian army, but I have no way of knowing if that’s correct. It’s found on all Hakim airgun trainers.

Death head
The flaming death head is a military insignia.

All Hakim air rifles are .22 caliber. They’ve been reported as .177 caliber in several places, but none have been found in that caliber to my knowledge. In all, Anschütz made and delivered 2800 air rifles to the buyer.

My own experience
I bought my first Hakim from a newspaper ad in the late 1980s — before I started writing about airguns. It was surprisingly accurate at 10 meters; so when I saw the Navy Arms ad in Shotgun News, I bought 4 more. Over the years, I have bought others to fix up and sell, and I guess I’ve owned about 15 of them by this time. [Note from Edith: I remember when Tom reluctantly sold his first Hakim. I think it was to a man in Arizona. The minute the deal was done, you could see seller's remorse on Tom's face. Some time after that, he was able to buy back the gun. You cannot imagine how happy he was when that Hakim returned to it's rightful home. I'm surprised he didn't ask me to throw a party. He said he'd never get rid of it, but I'm pretty sure he did.]

The rifle I have now is not only the nicest-looking Hakim trainer I’ve ever owned, it’s also one of the two nicest examples I have even seen, and that is out of about 200 rifles. The other nice one was refinished with a lustrous blue, and its military stock had no marks on it. My current rifle still has the military finish on all the metal parts, but the wood has been built from the ground up by a master craftsman. The dimensions seem to replicate the military wood stock exactly. It’s made from beautiful walnut with attractive grain, and whoever did the work got it right.

I bought this rifle at the Findlay show earlier this year. I found the beautiful stock to be irresistible, and I have absolutely no idea how the rifle performs. As of this moment, I’ve never shot it! That’s no great risk, though, because there isn’t much I can’t do to one of these.

The trigger is finely adjustable. What’s adjusted is the sear contact area, so you want to err on the side of safe operation when you adjust it. With a little care, you can get a wonderful 2-stage pull.

I’ve seen most Hakims shoot 14.5-grain RWS Superpoint pellets in the high 400s to the low 500s. After a rebuild, they’ll usually get as high as 550 f.p.s. I owned one that would do 650 f.p.s., but it wasn’t pleasant to shoot.

When I shot them years ago, I was shooting only 5-shot groups; and a good Hakim will put all 5 shots into a quarter-inch at 10 meters. I’ve owned a couple that were not as accurate for one reason or another, but the majority of them are quite accurate.

One nice thing about Hakims is how easy they are to cock. The underlever is quite long, and the cocking linkage is efficient; plus, the rifle’s mainspring is weak. In spite of the rifle’s weight, it can be shot comfortably all day long.

This is a very special airgun. It has the quality most people say they want but not the power that we’ve come to expect. It was purpose-built to be a target shooter to teach the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship. Ten years after this rifle was issued by the Egyptian army, the United States Air Force would buy hundreds of Crosman model 120 bolt-action rifles to do essentially the same thing. What do you think of these programs?

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

• Accuracy day…part 2
• Things that were done
• Sight-in
• Ten meters
• The hold
• 25 yards
• Velocity with Premiers
• Overall evaluation

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2
Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2

Accuracy day…part 2
Today, we return to the Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 air rifle. I think I’ve solved all the mysteries and finally got the rifle to shoot the way it should. You be the judge.

Things that were done
Several things were done to make the rifle ready for today’s test. First, I cleaned the barrel with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound on a bronze bore brush. To do that, I removed the barrel shroud and the baffles, so access to the barrel was easy. I cleaned from the breech. Since the NP2 has a gas spring, I could leave it cocked as long as I wanted without hurting the spring.

Next, I replaced the 3-9X32 CenterPoint scope that comes with the rifle for an older CenterPoint 3-12X40 scope that has an adjustable objective. Now, I was able to focus the scope on the target at 25 yards. CenterPoint no longer carries this scope that was made by Leapers, but it’s equivalent to this 3-12X40 UTG scope with AO, except that my scope doesn’t have an illuminated reticle.

I shimmed the replacement scope with one thin slice of plastic under the scope tube at the rear ring; because when I removed the factory scope, I noticed that it was adjusted toward the top of its range. I just wanted to make sure the reticle wasn’t floating in the replacement scope because the NP2 has a healthy jolt when it fires. No vibration, but there’s definite movement.

I tightened all the stock screws but found they were mostly tight already. That was when I noticed there’s no front triggerguard screw. The rear screw is the one that holds the action to the stock, and the front has no screw at all — yet there’s a hole in the guard for one. Some companies might be tempted to put a wood screw there to fool you, but that would just invite stripping the hole in the wood stock since the front screw is nearly always the one that gets tightened. Crosman made it foolproof.

06-25-14-02-Benjamin-Trail-Nitro-Piston-2-triggerguard
The front triggerguard screw doesn’t exist. The rear screw holds the action in the stock, and the front hole is blank.

Sight-in
I sighted-in at 12 feet and was on paper with the first shot. In all, I fired four shots to get where I wanted to be at 10 meters. I continue to shoot .22-caliber Crosman Premier pellets in this rifle for this whole test. Once I was sighted-in, I backed up to 10 meters and shot a 5-shot group.

Ten meters
I was still experimenting with holds at this point. I had already spent a whole day shooting the rifle with the factory scope and trying different holds (I didn’t tell you about that day or bother to report it), but a comment from a reader got me thinking. Reader Ben told me to hold the rifle more firmly and also to slide my off hand farther out under the forearm. He reminded me of what I knew but had temporarily forgotten — namely that gas spring guns need a different hold. So, I followed Ben’s suggestions, and they resulted in a 0.319-inch 5-shot group at 10 meters!

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 10 meter group
Five Premiers at 10 meters went into 0.319 inches.

Okay, that’s just at 10 meters. I know a lot of you do shoot at that distance, and I also know that many people shoot 5-shot groups. This is what the NP2 can do at that distance with 5 Premier pellets.

But you really want to see what it can do at 25 yards. And you want to see 10-shot groups. I adjusted the scope reticle down for 25 yards and started shooting.

The hold
Before I continue, let me describe the hold I’m using today. It’s not an artillery hold. I’m grasping the pistol grip firmly, but not with a death grip. And my off hand is slid out far enough that it’s touching the sling swivel on the forearm. I don’t grasp the forearm tightly, but I do grasp it with my fingers. Having my hand out that far, the rifle doesn’t want to move left or right. So, when the off hand gets settled, the crosshairs stay on target as I relax.

Relaxation is very important with the NP2. Every time I became anxious about where the next shot was going, I threw it wide. But when I relaxed, the shot went to the aim point, as you’ll soon see.

25 yards
The first group of 10 went into 0.931 inches. It’s better than the best group fired in the last test, which tells me that something I did helped out. Cleaning the barrel, tightening the screws, changing the scope or changing the way the rifle is held seems to have made the difference. But I thought the rifle could do even better.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 25-yard group 1
The first group of 10 Premiers from 25 yards went into 0.931 inches. It’s better than the best group from the previous test!

The second group is larger than the first, but the 3 pellets that missed the main group were all from my tension. When I relaxed, all the pellets went into the central group. Ten shots went into 1.333 inches, but the central 7 are in 0.656 inches. I think they represent the true accuracy of the NP2. This is the importance of relaxing when shooting this particular air rifle.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 25-yard group 2
This group was the most revealing. When I shot totally relaxed, the pellets went to the central group. When I tensed up for any reason, they went wide. Ten shots in 1.333 inches and 7 in 0.656 inches. I believe the NP2 can shoot as well as the central group indicates.

But you’re skeptical, and I would be, too. The concentration needed for every shot (making certain I was relaxed) was tiring me, but this rifle deserved the best I could give, so I shot one more 10-shot group at 25 yards. This time, I relaxed for each shot — the way I would tell someone else to do. You know — do as I say! This time, 10 pellets went into 0.704 inches. This, I believe, represents the level of accuracy of which this particular Benjamin Trail NP2 is capable.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 25-yard group 3
This time, I concentrated on the hold and relaxed for every shot. Ten pellets went into 0.704 inches at 25 yards.

Velocity with Premiers
One last thing to do. I told you that the cocking effort had dropped to 32 lbs. after the last accuracy report. With all the shooting I’ve done the rifle now has over 150 shots on the powerplant. I tested it again today, and it still cocks right at 32 lbs. The last velocity test had Premier pellets averaging 793 f.p.s. with a 40 f.p.s. spread. This time 10 Premiers averaged 745 f.p.s. and the spread was only 8 f.p.s.!

I know the gun shoots slower now; but given the wide variation before, I think it’s now settled into what it’s going to do. At 745 f.p.s., the Premier cranks out 17.63 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Overall evaluation
I think Crosman has made a nice new breakbarrel rifle with the NP2. It doesn’t vibrate, it cocks easier than other gas-spring guns in its power range, the trigger is crisp, the report is quiet and the rifle is accurate. For $250, this is about as nice a spring gun as you can find.

Yes, the power is not at the level Crosman advertises; and yes, the gun does kick — but it still gives you a lot of value for the money spent. The bad press at launch time is going to keep some shooters from giving the NP2 a try. That’s too bad because this is a rifle many of them would like.

I’ve tested this rifle openly and allowed you to see exactly what happened, as it happened. Crosman has sent another NP2 for me to test and I plan on testing that one for you as well. So, it ain’t over yet.

Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE
Hatsan’s AT44S-10 Long QE is packed with features for airgun hunters and long-range shooters.

This report covers:

• Most accurate test ever conducted!
• Scope and mounts
• Scope base design
• On to the range
• Airgunners…just like golfers!
• What happens next?

You waited for this report. I told you it was going to be a good one. I even advised a couple people to just buy this rifle if they wanted a quiet and powerful PCP that was also accurate. Today, you’re going to see why I said that.

Best test ever conducted!
To cut to the chase, this was the best test of an air rifle I’ve ever conducted at 50 yards. I won’t go so far as to say that the Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever fired, because you’ve seen in recent days that I seem somewhat variable. I refer to yesterday’s good test of the Air Arms Shamal after a pervious mediocre test.

However, if I can repeat today’s results at some future date, then I’ll conclude that this rifle is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever tested at 50 yards. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let’s see what happened.

If you’re a regular blog reader, you already know that I was having a good day because the Shamal had just turned in several great groups — including one stunner that measured 0.818 inches for 10 shots at 50 yards. Now, it was the Hatsan’s turn on the bench, and the weather was still perfect.

Scope and mounts
I had mounted an AirForce 4-16X50 scope on the rifle using UTG 2-piece Max Strength high Weaver rings for a 1-inch scope. One of our readers heard that the Hatsan scope base that allows both Weaver and 11mm scope rings to be mounted has problems with Weaver rings, so he asked me specifically to use rings that have a Weaver dovetail on their base. I did, and the UTG mounts fit well, though I will say that the Hatsan base is at the wide end of acceptable width.

But I think I see what the reader has heard about, and I want to share it with you. There are some shooters who feel that all mounts must look attractive and squared away or they don’t fit right. What these people don’t understand is that mount makers use base jaws that will fit as many different configurations of dovetail cuts as possible — because gun manufacturers do not use many standards when making their cuts.

Scope base design
I’m going to explain something here, and I want you to try to understand it because it will make all the difference if you do. Weaver bases are a standard that specifies the width and height of the dovetail, and the width of the cross groove that accepts the locking bar on the mount. But the angle of the cuts that shape the dovetail grooves are not as certain. No doubt, Weaver specifies them, but mount makers don’t always conform to that spec. They use dovetail cutters with varying angles. To deal with this inconsistency, many mount makers, including Leapers, cut the jaws of their ring base clamps with rounded points, so they’ll grip most dovetails, regardless of the angle of the cut.

If there was only one rounded point on the clamp base, the ring would sit cockeyed on the rifle; but when the other end of the same clamp also has a rounded point that engages a special cut in the scope ring and the two cockeyed points cancel each other. The result is a scope ring clamp jaw that looks cockeyed, yet the ring sits squarely on the gun.

In the 1990s, B-Square owner Dan Bechtel and I did a project to determine the standard width of 11mm airgun dovetails. This is where we discovered that those dovetails vary between 9.5mm and almost 14mm in width. The angles of cuts ranged from 45 degrees to 60 degrees. The Weaver base is more standardized, but the cut angles still vary and have to be addressed.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE scope ring base
Here you see how the rounded point of the scope ring clamp jaw allows it to fit into a wide variety of rifle dovetail base cuts. Having a rounded point on the other end of the same clamp will cancel this odd angle and allow the scope ring to sit squarely on the rifle.

The genius of this clamp design is lost on many people who see the cockeyed part as a flaw or mistake. Actually, it’s a compensating part that assures an exact fit on a variety of different gun bases. The picture shows this clearly.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE scope ring base on rifle
This photo shows how the compensating clamp jaw works. The jaw sits at an off angle, but the scope ring is perfectly level.

For that reason, my answer to the reader who asked whether the Hatsan bases will accept a Weaver ring is — yes. Many ring manufacturers make their ring base jaws this way. If you can tolerate the odd appearance, this solution works perfectly.

On to the range
I was at the range on a perfect day, so this test would be conclusive if a good pellet was found. In the past, you’ve seen me work through a list of pellets, looking for the best one. Well, on this day I happened to find that pellet on the second try. At least, I think that’s the case because that pellet did so well that I didn’t bother trying any others.

I filled the rifle to the manufacturer’s recommended 200 bar (2900 psi) and loaded the 10-shot magazine. The first pellet I shot was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier dome. I put 10 into 1.463 inches, but I’m not going to bother showing you that group because of what happened next. I knew from the velocity test we did in Part 2 that this rifle probably gets at least 20 good shots per fill when shooting at 50 yards. The velocity does decline with every shot; but as you’ll soon see, that doesn’t seem to matter much.

The second pellet I tried was the 16-grain Air Arms Diabolo Field pellet. It’s a dome that sits comfortably in the middle of the .22-caliber pellet weight range. Although it resembles the 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbo and although JSB does produce this pellet for Air Arms, they do so on proprietary dies owned by Air Arms; so, the two pellets are not the same and should not be confused with each other. On other tests, I’ve seen different results from these two pellets.

These 10 pellets were fired on the same fill as the Premiers, so the rifle’s internal pressure was down around 2500 psi when I started shooting. Every pellet went to the same place on the target. It was like they were being guided, or something. The result was 10 shots into a group that measures 0.681 inches between the two centers that are most distant. I was stunned when the group was finished! I’ve probably shot a couple other groups that small with airguns before — certainly with my Talon SS and probably also with a Benjamin Marauder — but this still ranks as one of the best groups I’ve ever shot at 50 yards with an air rifle. And the day was just beginning!

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE Air Arms pellet group 1
Ten Air Arms 16-grain domes made this 0.681-inch group at 50 yards. This is a screamer.

Following that, I refilled the rifle, for 20 shots had now been fired. The pressure had dropped to below 2000 psi, and I think to as low as 1750. I filled it back to 2900 psi and went back to the bench.

The next 10 shots were with the same Air Arms pellets, only this time we started at a full fill instead of only a partial. Ten pellets went into 0.992 inches this time — a little larger, but still in good territory.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE Air Arms pellet group 2
Ten more Air Arms 16-grain domes made this 0.992-inch group at 50 yards when the rifle was filled to the maximum. This isn’t a screamer; but coming on the heels of the previous group, it’s pretty good!

Now the rifle was back down to where it had been for the first great group. So, I loaded 10 more Air Arms pellets into the rotary clip and settled down to shoot another group. This time, all 10 went into 0.624 inches. A definite screamer; and with the first group, pretty good proof that the Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE I’m testing is a shooter.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE Air Arms pellet group 3
Ten more Air Arms domes made this 0.624-inch group at 50 yards when the rifle was fired on a partial fill. This is the best group of the session and also one of the best 50-yard 10-shot groups I’ve ever shot with an air rifle.

Airgunners…just like golfers!
Like a golfer who shot a sub-par game in which he also got a hole-in-one, I decided that my good luck had probably run its course this day. Besides the 40 shots fired with this rifle, I had also tested the Shamal and shot an additional 40 shots there because there were some adjustments to the scope that had to be made. In all, I’d shot 80 precision shots this day. That’s tiring.

What happens next?
I’ve never had an air rifle that would shoot this many consistently small groups in succession. Either I was having the best shooting day of my life, or this Hatsan rifle can really shoot. I want to return to the range under similar shooting conditions and see if I can repeat this. And I’ll continue to shoot the Air Arms pellets.

I just want to make sure this test was a valid one. It isn’t every day that you shoot the most accurate air rifle you’ve ever seen. I told several readers not to worry but to just buy the rifle if that was what they wanted. Now you see why.

After seeing what can be done with the Air Arms pellet, I want to explore some other pellets in this Hatsan. Hopefully, it’ll do well with several brands so there’s a choice.

After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll try this one at 100 yards. You may remember that I shot a one-inch group of 10 at 100 yards with a CondorSS last year. I wonder if this rifle can do as well?

Air Arms Shamal: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Shamal
Air Arms Shamal is an attractive PCP. It was Air Arms’ first precharged rifle.

Message from Pyramyd Air
Before I begin, here’s an email message that went out from Pyramyd Air to everyone who bought a Crosman NP2 rifle from their first shipment.

Subject:
Important Information Regarding Your Benjamin Trail NP2 Purchase

Message:
Thank you for your recent purchase of the Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 airgun from Pyramyd Air (Part # PY-3368-6474). We have been notified by Crosman, the manufacturer of the Benjamin Trail NP2, that there were manufacturing process variances that may have affected some of the airguns in the initial shipment. We have determined that your order came from this shipment. While the variances appear to have impacted only a small number of guns and there are no safety issues, we would like to offer you the following options:

▪ Replace your purchase with a new airgun at no charge to you
▪ Return your purchase for a full refund

Please contact our customer service department at 1-888-262-4867 by July 31, 2014, if you would like to move forward with either of these options. You can also arrange for a replacement directly through Crosman by calling 1-800-724-7486.

Our number one priority is the satisfaction and safety of our customers. We thank you for your continued loyalty and support.

Now, on to today’s report. This report covers:

• Things done differently
• Whassup?
• Ta-da!
• Summary
• Has this blog changed how you think about airguns?

Today’s report may not be very long, but it does represent an interesting bit of serendipity! This is a re-test of my Air Arms Shamal at 50 yards. Of course, that was shot outdoors at my rifle range.

Things done differently
The day was calm — perfect for shooting pellets with accuracy at 50 yards outdoors. You’ll remember that in my last test I went straight to the 50-yard range because I thought this rifle is so accurate that a lesser distance would be a wasted effort. Well, man plans and God laughs! My best 50-yard 10-shot group with 14.3-grain Crosman Premier domes, which I was sure were the most accurate pellets, measured 1.254 inches between centers. You can see that in Part 3.

While 1.254 inches for 10 shots is not that bad for 50 yards with an airgun, it’s certainly larger than I expected from this particular rifle. When I owned it before, I never shot it as far as 50 yards, but at 35 yards it was a killer. I just assumed it would hold together for the extra 15 yards; and when it didn’t in the last test, I was embarrassed.

Someone suggested that I clean the bore with a bore brush and J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, so I did. I had to clean from the muzzle because the breech is not accessible with the bolt in the way. Because I couldn’t keep J-B Paste out of the transfer port, I didn’t use very much on the brush. Otherwise, the cleaning job was the same as always.

Then, I took it out to the range a second time 2 weeks ago, filled it with air and prepared to shoot. The Shamal is a single-shot, so getting it ready isn’t a big chore — or so I thought!

Then, I boarded the boat to Serendip. My first group on this dead-calm day put 10 Crosman Premiers into 0.818 inches! Yeah, that’s right! I shot a 10-shot group that can almost be covered by an American Quarter! Almost!

Shamal Premier group 1 with quarter and dime
The first group of 10 Crosman Premiers went into 0.818 inches at 50 yards. It can almost be covered by an American quarter. That’s phenomenal!

Whassup?
Okay, what gives? This is the same pellet, same gun, same quiet weather, same distance, same shooter. Did I suddenly have an attack of virile youth? Did I suddenly remember how to shoot again? How can my groups shrink by almost a half inch (0.436 inches), when the only thing that changed was the calendar?

And why was the Shamal suddenly accurate — like I remembered? I wouldn’t mind being an old goat who can’t shoot anymore, but this off-and-on thing drives me nuts. It makes it hard to believe anything I write — even for me.

Well, the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. So, I decided to chance a second group on the same fill. You know — just to see what would happen. In case you haven’t been following this report closely, I discovered in Part 2 that this Shamal has a maximum fill pressure of 2250 psi and gets 16 shots before needing to be refilled. I’d already shot 10 on the current fill, so I’m wandering off the power curve to shoot another 10 — or at least that’s what I thought!

The next group stretched out taller than it was wide, with a max spread of 1.126 inches between centers. That’s considerably larger than the previous group, yet still somewhat smaller than the best group from the previous test. Well, I’m now off the power curve for sure, so it’s time to fill the reservoir.

Shamal Premier group 2 with quarter and dime
The second group on the same fill was strung vertically but was also smaller than the entire previous range test — at 1.126 inches between centers. Same Premier pellet.

Ta-da!
I connected the rifle to the carbon fiber tank and began the fill. When you start filling a PCP, you can always tell how much pressure is left in the gun, because the needle on the gauge will stop moving fast and start moving slower as the rifle’s reservoir opens to accept air. The point at which that occurs is the pressure that was already in the gun’s reservoir. This Shamal has a second quirk. It makes a loud buzzing noise when the reservoir is taking a fill. So, if you missed where the needle stopped, there will always be the noise to tell you when the rifle starts accepting a charge.

This time, the needle slowed down when it hit 2800 psi on the gauge, and that’s when the buzzing began! The rifle I was shooting had been overfilled to 3000 psi.

I was so shocked by this that I almost didn’t stop the fill. But I did and the rifle now had about 2900 psi in it. Going back to what was learned in part 2, the rifle was now grossly overfilled.

But curiosity demands to be satisfied, so I disconnected from the tank and returned to the shooting bench. The next 10 Crosman Premier pellets went into an identical 1.126-inch group! Oh, there’s no doubt some small size difference between them, but none large enough to see. Curiouser and curiouser!

Shamal Premier group 3 with dime
After refilling the rifle to 2900 psi, I shot this 1.126-inch group with Crosman Premiers.

Knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was more than enough air remaining in the reservoir, I shot another group. These 10 went into 1.268 inches. That’s slightly larger than the smallest group I was able to shoot the last time (1.254 inches). That’s 2 more okay groups from the rifle, and a total of 4 for this day.

Shamal Premier group 4 with dime
The final group was a little larger — but not much. Ten Premiers went into 1.268 inches at 50 yards.

But I know this rifle. It takes at least 40 shots to drop the pressure from 3000 psi down to 2250 where the power curve begins. I’d just fired 20 shots toward that end, but I’d also taken up more time out of a day in which I had another airgun to test — namely the Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE (read that report later this week). So, I stopped shooting the Shamal at this point.

Summary
I don’t know what’s going on, except that when this rifle is overfilled to the point that the pellets are leaving the gun at 650-690 f.p.s., it’s more accurate than when the gun is shooting the same pellet at about 790 f.p.s. Or at least that’s what it looks like. I think I need to get back to the range and do some more testing — a lot more testing!

Has this blog changed how you think about airguns?
I initially published this section on the May 30, 2014, blog, and I’m going to repeat it at least once a week through the end of July so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten.

From the comments many of you make, it sounds like the blog may have positively impacted your shooting and/or airgunning in general. I invite you to send me an email telling me about that impact.

Were you a firearms shooter who accidentally discovered airguns through this blog? If so, tell me how this blog has helped your understanding of airguns.

Were you already an airgunner, but you thought what you saw in the big box stores was all there was? If so, how has this blog helped you understand more about airguns?

I’ve gotten quite a few responses already, but I want to make sure you know that I’m not looking for “attaboys,” pats on the back or personal recognition. I’m looking for real feedback on how the information in this blog and the comments from your fellow blog readers have enriched your airgunning experience, what you’d like to know and what you’re still unsure of. This blog is written for its readers, and I want to share your stories with others who may be where you were before you found this blog.

Pyramyd Air has created a special temporary email address so you can send me your feedback. I’ll be the only person to get these emails, and we’re not going to generate any lists from the addresses.

My plan is to publish one or more blog reports with the more interesting comments. If you give me written permission, I’ll use your real name or blog handle, otherwise your comments will be anonymous.

This email address will be live for only a few weeks. We have tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Even if you’ve never commented on the blog, email me your message. If you’re reading this blog after July 2014, email submissions will no longer be forwarded to me, and you may get an auto-reply email stating that or your email might bounce back to you.

Compromise

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

This report covers:

• The truth is slowly revealed
• A lost love
• A new hope
• The anal airgunner
• Lecture me

Today, I’ll talk about something that has harassed me all my life — reality and the need to compromise. At the earliest age, I remember wanting a gun that held infinite bullets (we played cowboys in the early ’50 and we called cartridges bullets back then). The television cowboys never needed to reload. Why should I?

As a pre-teen, I discovered the M1 Garand and its .30-06 cartridge that I was certain could penetrate 10 feet of steel armor! I never actually saw a cartridge outside of a gun magazine; but in pictures, the darned thing looked like a Redstone rocket (a stone-age rocket that existed before the electric light and the internet — look it up) and I just knew there was nothing that could stop it. I read in Classic Comics (always the literary snob) where Frank “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” Buck shot a leopard out of a tree by breaking the branch it was on. And what did he use? A single bullet from a .30-06!

As I eased into my teen years, I bought a gun book by Lucian Cary that I still have today. It showed the awesome .300 Weatherby Magnum that smashed through a big tree, and another one that penetrated a thick sheet of bulletproof glass. Maybe there was something better than a .30-06.

Each of the stages I passed through while growing up opened my eyes a little more to reality. But I remained pretty naive for most of my life. You stick with what works.

In college, I read how Elmer Keith could hit targets at long range with handguns. He stuffed his cartridges (I was reloading by this time and now knew better) with nails and dynamite, and proceeded to make life risky for anything within 400 yards. But Keith had guns I couldn’t get. He shot S&W Triple Locks and customized Colt single-actions that were built to take the stress of his loads. The gun makers were his friends, so S&W gave him a big .357, and Ruger invented the .44 Magnum in his honor. My first-generation Colt SAA could not withstand the same abuse to which he regularly subjected his custom guns.

A lost love
As a youngster, I absolutely loved the shell-shucker Winchester Model 61 slide-action .22 repeater! I got to shoot them several times, but I never could afford one. I settled for an 1890 Winchester pump that did pretty much the same thing, only it did so while looking embarrassingly old-fashioned with its exposed hammer. And the one I could afford had very little finish remaining, plus it wasn’t even a .22 long rifle. It was a .22 Winchester Rimfire (WRF) that cost more per box of 50, yet wasn’t any more powerful. The sweet model 61, on the other hand, took shorts, longs and long rifles in its stride and looked like it was going 100 mph when it was standing still.

But a day finally came when I was able to get a 61! I’d just returned from a 4-year tour in Germany and had a little extra cash. Lo and behold, that was when I discovered that the model 61 struggles to hold all its shots inside an inch at 50 yards! I’d imagined much better, as you may have guessed. No matter, though, because a bitter divorce soon stripped me of all my firearms, reloading equipment and airguns. I didn’t have to look at that LNIB model 61 for very long.

Enough nostalgia. Fast-forward to today and I’ll tell you how things are now. I don’t like compromises, but they seem to pop up everywhere. The M1 Garand, for instance. Sure, it’s an accurate battle rifle, but it’s not really that accurate. Minute-of-soldier for certain, but it’s not for shooting tight groups on paper. Oh, somebody says, what you want is a Garand that’s been worked on! They’ll shoot small groups, alright. Yes, they will, but the better (more accurate) they get, the fussier and less Garand-like they become. When you finally have a Garand that shoots a one-inch group at 100 yards, the darned thing operates reliably with only a few specific loads; and it’s so tight that disassembly for cleaning isn’t recommended. If you doubt me, just ask blog reader Matt61.

There’s a tradeoff between reliability and ultimate accuracy. I’m not talking about the accuracy that lets you hit tin cans at 100 yards. I’m talking about shooting sub-inch 10-shot groups at that distance. When I say reliability, I don’t mean it jams only once in 200 shots. I mean it never jams. I have guns that operate that well, and I’ve had many more that didn’t.

A new hope
While in Germany in the 1970s, I was introduced to the Kartoffel 45. A German hunting acquaintance showed me a 1911 he had found on an abandoned battlefield long after the war ended. It was actually buried in a field and he plowed it up while digging mounds for potatoes — hence the name Kartoffel, which is German for potato. The gun was deeply pitted all over its surface from the rust of many years in the ground. He hammered it apart and cleaned the major parts, plus he replaced everything he could with new parts. The effect was startling. It looked like a gun that might blow up in your hand, yet it functioned like any other Army 1911. Because it was a 1911, all the parts that mattered could be replaced in less than an hour. It could look unserviceable, yet still function perfectly.

Seeing that gun opened my eyes to what’s meant by reliability. I saw the genius of John Browning’s design through the lens of that nearly destroyed, yet perfectly serviceable handgun. When I got back to the States, I knew that a Garand I discovered in a similar pitted condition would also operate just fine. I bought that Garand from a pawn shop that sold it to me with apologies. They felt it was nearly worthless, but I suspected different. When I took it to the range, I was proven right. That old pitted M1 with its rough bore was loose as a goose, yet it never failed to function when fed the military loads for which it was designed.

That told me what’s possible as far as reliability goes, but it said nothing about accuracy. With a lot of additional shooting, I discovered that if I wanted the ultimate in accuracy, I had to give up some reliability. There’s a compromise that balances between the two desired attributes because each one seems to negate the other.

I hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but what you really want is acceptable reliability with an acceptable level of accuracy. And this is where Rainman goes off into a corner, muttering the words to Who’s on first.

Remember years ago when we talked about the stages of an airgunner’s experience? It starts out with the quest for high velocity and ends with self-actualization? Well, I’m older now and have discovered another secret. Live long enough, and your desires start to conform to reality.

What I’m saying is that I now understand why an army would choose a weapon that is extremely reliable but not as accurate as it could be. I appreciate why the Brits revered their SMLE Mk IV. I understand why the Mosin Nagant 91/30 was so long-lived and why the AKM is accepted around the world. It’s because they work, even when they shouldn’t.

I also understand why the United States Marine Corp was so adamant on keeping their 1903 Springfields when the Garand first came out, and why they changed their minds so suddenly after gaining battle experience with the Garand. No battle-ready Garand could hold a candle to a Springfield bolt-action rifle on the target range, but neither could the Springfield keep up with the Garand in war! The Garand was a perfect compromise for its application (at that time — there are better rifles today). The Springfield was very accurate but fell short of the Garand’s firepower. Another compromise.

The anal airgunner
When I worked at AirForce Airguns, one of my friends sent me two standard AirForce reservoirs for his Talon SS and asked me to “balance” them so both would shoot at the same speed when the gun was set to the same power level. He wanted to be able to remove a tank from his gun, attach the other one and continue shooting without changing the power setting.

This was an official request. Obviously, AirForce made the valves in both tanks, and he assumed we would be able to fine-tune them so he could have two tanks that performed exactly the same. He was willing to overlook up to a variance of 10 f.p.s. between tanks. Oh, well — as long as he was reasonable!

I say this with a lot of sarcasm because many of you may be thinking the same thing — if a company makes a valve, surely they can also tune it to do whatever they want? Of course, they can — just as certainly as an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters can write the works of Shakespeare, given enough time.

In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. You can try again and again, and maybe you’ll get two valves to perform the same. Or, maybe, you’ll luck into it on the first try! Better play the lottery if you do! This is why guns that allow you to adjust the airflow, such as the Benjamin Marauder, are so unique. Crosman can’t make all their valves perform the same, but they give you the adjustments to compensate for it.

Okay — lecture me
This is where I will get lectured by some well-meaning readers who know for a fact that it is indeed possible to tune an airgun valve to do exactly what they want. They overlook the 25 hours of time they invest in their project to bring it fruition. In their minds, if it can be done at all, why…it’s possible! Yes, and the United States put several men on the moon in the 1970s, yet they couldn’t do it again today without another costly research program.

Just because a thing has been done once does not mean that it can be repeated. That’s why “The Catch” (referring to Willie Mays remarkable catch of Vic Wertz’s long drive in game one of the 1954 World Series) is so celebrated even today — 60 years later. Or why, when Bob Beaman broke the world long jump record by nearly two feet in the 1968 Olympics, he sailed past the optical scoring device at the end of the sand pit and the jump had to be scored manually.

So something that’s extraordinary can still happen; but when it does, it doesn’t mean the world has changed. The next person to try will probably get the same results everybody else has gotten all along.

My motor has been started by this blog! Can you tell? I just talked to Edith about all the lies and fantasies of gas spring airguns and what Ben Taylor — the Ben in Theoben — taught me about them. Talk about the Emperor’s New Clothes!

Airgunners were lying to themselves about the wonders of the new gas spring technology in the 1990s. Yet, when I started testing my Beeman Crow Magnum and writing about it, a lot of those myths were put to rest. I ended up with egg on my face for more than a year, until Taylor stepped forward and told me I was right. What I learned doesn’t make gas springs any less desirable, but it does reveal that pellets shot from them will not penetrate 10 feet of steel!

Edith said I should write a report about that experience and share it with all of you. Gonna do that next week.

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.

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