Friday, July 29, 2005

What makes an airgun quiet?

by B.B. Pelletier

The REAL question is "What makes an airgun noisy?" because quiet is just the absence of noise. People who shoot airguns like them to be quiet. With the race for power, they often stumble back into the noisy realm, again. This is not a post about silencers, but about passive ways to quiet an airgun.

Air is the culprit!
High-pressure air is the real noise culprit. And, CO2 under pressure acts the same as air, so you might as well toss it into the same pot. Spring-piston guns are the quietest because they use the smallest amount of high-pressure air. By the time the pellet gets to the muzzle, the air in a springer is under a lot less pressure than the muzzle blast from a PCP or other pneumatic.

Even among pneumatics, there are quiet guns. Consider Daisy's Avanti 747. It's a single-stroke pneumatic target pistol, yet it has a relatively quiet report. A similar single-stroke match pistol, the IZH 46M, is much louder. Of course, the IZH is more powerful, which means the air that leaves the muzzle is under more pressure, which is why it makes more of a pop.

On some guns, YOU control the volume!
With a multi-pump rifle like Daisy's 22SG, the number of pumps you put in determines the power and the noise the gun will make. If you value quiet, learn to make do with fewer pumps for a quieter gun.

The AirForce Talon is another gun you can shoot quietly. Because it has adjustable power, you can dial the power down to the point the rifle makes very little noise. You'll still get plenty of power - just not the maximum the rifle has to offer. This is how many owners of the super-powerful Condor shoot their rifles most of the time.

Another feature that only the AirForce rifles have is that the owner can change the barrel in a few minutes. That means you can also change the caliber. A .177-caliber AirForce barrel will shoot quieter than their .22 because less air escapes with each shot.

Springers are the kings of quiet
For the quietest shooting of all, spring guns are the way to go. A well broken-in Beeman R9 can be one of the quietest airguns you never heard, as can a TX 200.

Where you shoot affects sound, too
By picking your shooting spot, you can control how much sound will escape the area. Some shooters have constructed cardboard box "tunnels" lined with soft fabric through which they shoot. As long as the muzzle is inside the box tunnel, very little muzzle report will escape. This works best for shooting off a bench indoors so you don't disturb the other residents of the house.

Using your house as a silencer
An entire house can be used quite effectively as a sort of silencer. Simply shoot through an open window with the muzzle several feet inside the house and very little noise will escape. Of course, it's going to be louder for the shooter inside the confines of the house, so before doing this make certain that everyone approves. This is how some homeowners take care of garden and flowerbed pests without disturbing their neighbors.

Even a powerful airgun can be made quieter without resorting to the expense and legal entanglements of buying a silencer. Think about these things and see what you can do to make your airgun quiet.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The new Big Bore 909S may be the ideal hunting rifle!

by B.B. Pelletier

This post is for all who love big bore rifles. The new .45-caliber Big Bore 909S from Sam Yang has the features you need and want to thoroughly enjoy shooting a big bore. Let's take a look.

It's a single-shot breechloader
This is a MOST important feature. Know why? Because it lets YOU load any bore-sized projectile you desire in the gun. You are not held to just the pellets and bullets available from this company or anyone else. That means you are free to experiment with bullets until you find the right one for your purpose. A powerful shot that fails to hit the target is meaningless, while a less-powerful shot that connects does the trick. If you can't hit the target, nothing else matters!

Repeating big bores force you to use pellets and bullets that feed through the magazine. That limits what you can shoot. Breechloaders and, better yet, single-shot breechloaders let you load anything you want into your rifle - and the 909S is a leader among those rifles. It has a sliding breech cover that exposes the rear of the barrel in the most convenient way. If you want to shoot perfect lead cylinders that you cast yourself, there is nothing to stop you!

Lots to shoot
Pyramyd has a wide variety of ammo for this rifle, but if you don't find what you like, go to any good gun store and see what they have in 0.451-cal. to 0.452-cal. lead bullets There should be several. Or, you can buy a bullet mold and cast your own! The breechloading facility of the rifle allows that kind of choice and flexibility.

Personally, I would look at bullets in the 170-grain to 200-grain range, because I find them to be the most accurate out to 50 yards. Don't overlook round balls, which will really scream due to their relatively light weight. Bullets heavier than 225 grains tend to shoot open groups at long ranges. If you plan to use them, keep the distance below about 75 yards.

Pump or scuba tank?
This is a VERY important question, because the 909 uses a LOT of air for each shot. You will get 5 to 10 decent shots, with the first 5 being your best power shots. If you're hunting, top off after number five. A hand pump will get you off the support grid, but don't buy one if all you plan to do is shoot the rifle from a bench at the range. Then, a scuba tank is mandatory.

New gun - new look!
The new rifle has a single large air reservoir tube instead of the two stacked tubes on the old model. This gives a sleeker look and a profile that is not as tall. It also makes a gun a little bit lighter weight.

That's not all
Pyramyd Air is giving away a free plastic rifle case when you buy this gun! When the gun arrives, you're ready to go! Since many owners plan to hunt with their rifles, the hard case is essential for transporting your gun to the hunting area.

Even better is Pyramyd's price! Usually, a new model costs more than the old, but this looks like a reduction to me. I always liked the 909 for all the reasons mentioned above, but now there's a real cost incentive to get one.

Big bore airguns are a specialty area, but if you find yourself bitten by the bug, this is the rifle to get.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How to use a peep sight

by B.B. Pelletier

A lot of air rifles come with peep sights. With fewer people going into the military these days, are shooters aware what a wonderful sight this is? Let's take a moment today and consider the peep or aperture sight.

Peep sights are relatively new
I don't know when the first aperture sight was used, but the 1873 Trapdoor Springfield rifle was, I believe, the first military rifle to offer it as an option. In 1884, the Buffington sight was added to the Springfield. It was on a long leaf, combined with conventional open sights, so troopers could select the sight they needed. Buffalo hunters had already proved it's worth for precision long-range shooting, as had Creedmore target shooters. All American military rifles since then have had some kind of peep sight, and most have had them exclusively - including today's M4!

They're easier to use
Once you learn how to use them, peep sights are easier and faster to use than open sights. What you do is position your eye so you look through the rear aperture or peephole. Your eye automatically centers the front sight element because the brightest light is at the center of the peephole. All you have to do is align the front sight element with the target and shoot! It's that simple.

Peepholes come in different sizes
For military use, the rear aperture has to be large enough that a quick sight picture can be formed. That lowers the precision of the sight. While you can hit a man-sized target at 300 yards with a battle-ready M1 Garand, you'd be hard-pressed to shoot a 4" group at the same distance. For target use, the peephole has to be smaller, to the point that some peepholes are so small that they can be used ONLY under the exacting light conditions found on a formal indoor target range. But, a target peep, which is available for the Garand, can give you that 4" group at 300 yards.

In fact, the peephole size actually affects accuracy to a great degree. A rifle that usually has a large peephole can become more accurate simply by pasting a paper over the peephole and poking a smaller hole in the paper. I am not kidding about this, and it does work!

You can add a peep sight!
Many airguns can be upgraded with peep sights. Beeman sells a very nice one that's been around for many decades. It fits a lot of fine air rifles that have 11mm dovetails. Daisy sells a peep sight for their line of target rifles, and it also works on their 499 BB gun. Not to be outdone, Crosman also has an optional peep sight for their Benjamin Sheridan line. And, on their Challenger 2000, a peep comes standard, as they do on all Daisy target rifles.

If you haven't tried a peep sight, you might consider it. It will make all your non-optical sighting more precise. Isn't hitting the target what it's all about?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Crosman S1008 Air Mag is a nifty shooter!

by B.B. Pelletier

A reader asks if the Crosman S1008 Air Mag pistol is worth the money. I can't answer that but can give my opinion of the gun, since I've shot it and played with it.

This is more than just a gun
This is a complete shooting package that includes a sticky target, shooting glasses, powerlets, ammo and the gun. The sticky target is a great way to shoot airsoft indoors because the BBs stick to the target face instead of going everywhere. I do recommend that you buy extra BBs and powerlets, though, because you'll go through them pretty fast.

Powered by CO2
The pistol is powered by CO2 powerlets, which isn't common for an airsoft gun. Because CO2 has more potential power than green gas, this pistol is more powerful than the average gas pistol. Because of that, you might experiment with heavier BBs, though 0.12-gram BBs come with the gun.

It's a repeater!
At this price you won't find very many repeaters other than spring-piston guns, and for them you have to pull back the slide for every shot. The S1008 gives you 7 shots as quick as you can squeeze the trigger. The only other gun in this price range that does that is the Neonfire UG-161SB, which uses green gas instead of CO2.

Buy extra magazines
Two magazines come with the gun, but you can get two extra magazines for just little more. You'll probably want to load up a lot of mags before you start shooting, because once you start, things happen fast. Extra mags keep the fun going.

Because the S1008 is a repeater that shoots just by pulling the trigger, you'll find yourself shooting fast. This is something the gun does very well. The basic gun is a pellet pistol converted to airsoft, so the design has been proven for quite a while.

No Hop Up!
The one detractor is that the pistol lacks a Hop Up feature. So, all your shooting has to be at close range. I found the BBs didn't drop as much as they curved left or right after 20 feet. Hop Up would keep them flying straight. If you plan on shooting at 12 feet, this isn't a big concern.

That's my take on the Crosman S1008 airsoft pistol. Did I leave anything out?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Do breakbarrels loosen at the joint?

by B.B. Pelletier

This is an answer to a question asked last week: "I was wondering if breakbarrel springers ever wear loose at the hinge and become inaccurate?" That's a common question that deserves an answer.

Some history about the ancestors of modern breakbarrels
You must understand that spring-piston airguns are a more recent development. They're just over a century old, so there's not a lot of real history to support this answer. The earliest models were made with soft iron frames and they DID wear, as our reader suggests. One of the more popular types of breakbarrels are the Gem-type rifles, and they almost always wear loose.

On a good modern airgun, the joint compensates for wear
Coming to the recent past, breakbarrel design has been improved to the point that wear has become a non-issue. Most quality breakbarrels, such as the Beeman R1, have some kind of thrust washer to provide a lower coefficient of friction at the joint. When airgunsmiths tune a breakbarrel, one of the things they do is lubricate the thrust washers and the pivot bolt with some good heavy-duty lubricant to further reduce friction.

The pivot bolt is the fulcrum as well as the axle around which the barrel rotates when the gun is cocked. The mark of a good breakbarrel is a wide-diameter bolt to spread the cocking load as broadly as possible. They all have bolts that can be adjusted to take up any slack that might form over time.

The spring-loaded detent assures a good breech seal and barrel lockup
Besides thrust washers and thick pivot bolts, breakbarrels rely on a spring-loaded detent to maintain pressure on the breech joint when the barrel is locked up. The best detent, in my opinion, is the chisel type. It pushes the hardest because it has more travel by design than the ball bearing type that RWS and the Chinese companies use. Still, I've never seen an RWS (Diana) breakbarrel with a loose joint, so I guess the ball bearing works well enough.

If you DO find a loose breech joint, tighten it!
It's the owner's job to watch the breech joint for looseness and adjust the pivot bolt when necessary. If you grab the barrel and can wiggle it side to side between the action forks, the breech joint is loose. Consult your owner's manual for instructions. Lacking a manual, tighten the pivot bolt until the barrel remains in any position after the gun has been cocked.

I hope this eases your minds about breakbarrel guns. They really don't have problems with loose joints any more.

Friday, July 22, 2005

My favorite spring guns

by B.B. Pelletier

This posting reflects my personal taste, and I don't want to offend any of our readers. When it comes to good spring-piston air rifles, my list becomes very short. I'm only going to comment on guns that are available today.

TX 200
This is my favorite spring-piston air rifle. I used one in field target competition for many years and, whenever there was a job to be done with a pellet rifle, my underlever TX was one of three airguns I would consider. The TX 200 HC looks just like the standard rifle, only it's a few inches shorter. Since the regular TX already has a super-short barrel (less than 10 inches), nothing is lost with the HC except a little length and weight in the extreior package.

The trigger is a copy of the famous Rekord trigger that's been around since the mid-1950s and has earned a spot in the airgun hall of fame. I believe it is as good as a factory Rekord, or maybe a little better. The adjustability seems better on the TX, where the Rekord is easier to disassemble and lubricate. Both are wonderful airgun triggers.

The firing behavior of this gun is very smooth. It's to the point that a tuneup can make very little improvement over what is already there. And, accuracy is first-class. It's my top spring gun choice.

HW 77
The HW 77, made by Weihrauch, served as the foundation for the TX 200. The TX is not a copy, but a lot of the design technology is similar. The HW 77 is a classic underlever spring gun. At one time (the late 1980s to very early 1990s), it was the top spring gun in the world.

The 77 has the Rekord trigger, so enough said. I find the firing behavior to be smooth, but this rifle can benefit from a tuneup. Like the TX 200, the HW 77 is very accurate, but I do find that it requires a bit more technique to get all the accuracy that it has to offer. It's not completely neutral and should be handled gingerly when fired.

The Webley Tomahawk
The Tomahawk is the result of a Webley custom shop effort that resulted in a production spring gun of near-custom performance. It's a breakbarrel, but it's also a Webley, which means the barrel joint will be held tightly closed until YOU want it open!

The trigger is in the same class as the Rekord and TX. The firing behavior is ultra-smooth, but there is forward recoil that requires shooting technique. The one criticism I have of the Tomahawk is the strange-looking muzzle weight that Webley claims is some sort of advanced technology. It looks like a squirrel-cage muzzlebrake to me.

That's all, folks! That's my shortest of short lists for spring rifles. Yes, they're all expensive. If your goal is to save money, just cut a slot in your tummy and pretend you're a piggybank. This is airgunning - and, sometimes, fun costs money!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

How to pull the trigger

by B.B. Pelletier

With a title like that, you'd think I wouldn't have much to say. "Just PULL it!" is all anyone needs to know. Right?

Actually, there's more to pulling a trigger than many people know.

What KIND of trigger?
There are more kinds of triggers than we have room for here, so I will just address two popular ones - the single-stage and the two-stage trigger.

Single-stage triggers
A single-stage triggers is ready to go when the gun is cocked. Just pull back on it until the gun fires. The correct way to "pull" a single-stage trigger is to squeeze it straight back with the pad of your fingertip. Your finger should move in such a way that it does not influence the gun by moving it from side to side. This is very hard to do with a handgun, which is why the two-handed hold has become so popular. With a rifle, it's easier to not push the muzzle to one side while squeezing the trigger, but it's not a given. It still takes practice.

Apply steadily increasing force until the sear releases and the gun fires. The very best triggers release the sear without a jarring movement. If there is an overtravel screw, adjust it to stop the trigger's movement at the moment of release.

As you become accustomed to the trigger, you should gain a sense of when it is about to let go. This sense will help you select the proper time for the sear to release.

Two-stage triggers
These are more popular among shooters because they give a better feel to the trigger. Nearly all military triggers are two-stage. The first stage of the two-stage trigger is usually just the resistance offered by the trigger return spring, though there are target guns that allow some of the trigger's total pull weight to be loaded into the first stage, as well.

When the trigger stops moving, you've come to the second stage, which is the one that releases the sear. An adjustable trigger can be set to have a light first stage, then a VERY light second stage. Yet, it is safer than a heavier single-stage trigger because of the feel when the second stage is reached.

Once I know a gun's two-stage trigger, I often pull and release the first stage several times before getting serious with the second stage. Treat the second stage just like it is a single-stage trigger, with the benefit that you know absolutely when you have begun your pull.

Be careful not to "snipe"
Sometimes, when you're on the trigger and the target is in your sights, there is a tremendous desire to just pull the trigger and be done with it. Avoid doing this, as it is a leading cause of missing. Also, avoid hooking your first finger joint over the trigger for extra leverage. That leads to pulling the gun to one side. If you need that much leverage to work the trigger, you need a better trigger. If you can't take your shot for some reason, relax your trigger finger and get it out of the triggerguard entirely.

This has been a brief look at proper trigger technique. I may expand on this if there is enough interest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

CO2 and pneumatic guns: Where to get them fixed

by B.B. Pelletier

Okay, you now have a vintage airgun or two. Where do you get them fixed? Unless you know that, what's the sense of buying them at all? In this posting, I will address repair shops for pneumatics and CO2 guns. I'll cover springers and BB guns later.

George Pena
George is a Texan who fixes American pneumatics. His business card says "Benjamin, Sheridan and old Crosman model 140/1400 pneumatic air rifle repair." He puts them back to factory specs. I've shot a vintage Sheridan he resealed, and he did a great job. Not only does the gun shoot like new, he didn't mess up the vintage finish on a significant collectible while he did the work! George is at or 512-863-2951.

Tim McMurray in California has been fixing CO2 and pneumatic guns since 1964. He has the parts to fix the old guns, and he often makes the parts he can't buy. He also has several modified models of guns, such as the Crosman Mark I, that he turns into a bulk-filled long-barreled super shooter called the LD. There's also the Steroid Streak, which is a very powerful Sheridan pneumatic. Contact him at or call 310-327-0238.

Dave Gunter
Dave lives in Oregon and rebuilds vintage Crosman, Sheridan and Benjamin guns. He can reseal the S&W 78G and 79G. One of his specialties is making valves more efficient, and his Crosman 600 "Buntline" pistol is a legend. It gets close to 100 shots per fill and almost 500 f.p.s.!

Dave is a perfectionist who strives to get the most out of a vintage gun without changing its looks or operation. Contact Dave at or call 503-336-1436.

Rick Willnecker
Rick is in Pennsylvania, where he repairs vintage and modern Crosman, Benjamin and Sheridan guns. Rick is another guy who has been doing this for several decades, and he's very methodical in his work. He will restore airguns to operational specs, but he won't increase power in guns beyond the factory levels. Contact him at or call 717-382-1481.

Are there others?
Of course there are others, but I know all these guys and recommend them. If you have another favorite repair station, I'd like to hear about it and why you like it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Crosman's Single-Action Six - another blast from the past

by B.B. Pelletier

A reader asked for information about his Crosman Single-Action Six. Since you guys seem to like oldies, I thought I'd review the gun.

The Single-Action Six, or SA-6 as it was also known, was a .22-caliber CO2 revolver made from 1959 to 1969. It has medium-gray plastic grips that are supposed to simulate stag. It was one of the early Crosman lookalike airguns of which they produced a bundle.

Crosman Single-Action Six was a realistic .22 pellet revolver.
The whole cylinder revolved when the hammer was cocked.

The best and worst of the gun
The best thing about this gun is that the cylinder actually revolves - not just a thin slice of it, like most CO2 revolvers. The chambers were loaded from the front instead of the rear and the pellets were put in tail first. A coiled spring around the cylinder held all six pellets in place until they were fired.

Another nice feature was the weight, which is pretty substantial. Because the gun is all metal, it feels very balanced in your hand.

The CO2 powerlet was installed externally - where the ejector rod housing on a Colt Single-Action Army might be. Because the powerlet is larger in diameter than a Colt ejector housing, Crosman supplied a split piece of matte-finished black plastic tubing to cover up the powerlet when it was on the gun. They also had a fake ejector housing in the correct place to complete the disguise.

The worst thing about the SA-6 was its use of gas. While modern CO2 pistols get 45-60 shots per powerlet, the SA-6 gets only 35 good shots on a warm day. Usually, you're lucky to see shot number 30. At the time this model was contemporary, powerlets were known as leakers. They had bottlecap ends that didn't seal worth a darn. You'd be lucky to get four out of five to work - in a gun that used them up in no time.

An inexpensive addition to your airgun collection
Crosman made plenty of other revolvers at the time such as the Hahn BB gun, the Crosman model 36 and the Crosman Shiloh. There were also real leather holsters for all these guns. They were very prolific in their day, and none of the Crosman revolvers are particularly hard to find today. An SA-6 in shooting condition is worth about $50, and one that's new in the box should bring about $100.

If you're a collector of vintage air pistols, this is a good place to get started with Crosman because the prices are still in the affordable range. In a future posting, I'll mention some places where you can get these old guns repaired and resealed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Accuracy tips

by B.B. Pelletier

This posting was requested by a reader who asked for more on general airgun accuracy. Specifically, he wants to know how to breathe, follow-through and double-tap with a semiauto air rifle.

Breathing control
Controlling your breathing is as important for airgun accuracy as it is for firearms. And, there is only one way to do it. Before each shot, breathe deeply several times to oxygenate your body (don't hyperventilate!). As you're ready to take your shot, breathe deep one last time, let out about half (until you feel relaxed) and hold your breath to take the shot.

You have about five seconds before an oxygen deficit starts your heart pounding harder. This is the best time to let off the shot, while your body is relaxed and calm. If you can't shoot in five seconds, relax your trigger finger and start the process all over again.

Follow-through is important in golf, baseball AND airguns!
Follow-through means keeping your sights on target after the shot has been fired, and it's one of the MOST important accuracy tips! By following through, the shooter ensures that the gun is not moved before the pellet is out of the barrel. Poor shooters will quickly raise their heads from the sights when they think the shot is off. Eventually, this becomes an anticipatory flinch that begins while the pellet is still in the gun. When this occurs, the target is hit only by chance.

When you follow through, you start seeing the sight picture the moment the shot was taken. This lets you know how the sights were aligned with the target when the pellet took off. You can even begin "calling" your shots when you can do this. All great shooters do it; poor shooters never do it. Follow-through is one of the distinctions that defines an accurate shooter.

Secrets of a good double-tap
A double-tap means two quick shots fired in succession from a semiautomatic weapon - usually a handgun in a tactical mode. I haven't heard the term used for airguns - but, why not?

There are precious few true semiauto air rifles. There's the Drulov DU-10 Eagle, the IZH Drozd and, in a month or so, the new Nightstalker from Crosman. I'm going with the Drozd, partly because more people will have one but mostly because I have zero experience with the Drulov in rifle form. As a pistol, the Drulov trigger pull is so light that it probably isn't a big issue.

The semiauto pellet-firing Crosman Nightstalker will soon be available here.

The difficulty with a double-tap is gun control. The gun moves with shot No. 1 and should be brought back to target before shot No. 2 breaks, or you'll throw away the shot. It's easier to control a rifle than a pistol, which helps, but control is still the name of the game.

The secret to semiautomatic rifle control is adopting a stance and hold that tends to return to zero after the shot. For shot No. 2, you'll resort to instinct shooting rather than aligning the sights because of the speed of the shot, so returning to where you started is all-important. If you're unable to rest the gun, then the best stance is to lean into the gun.

Those are my tips. Write if you want more.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Who needs foot-pounds?

By B.B. Pelletier

Foot-pounds of energy. Muzzle energy. What does it all mean? Well, it's a way to express the relative power of an airgun. When I was a kid, the big deal was shooting through one side of a tin can or sticking a pellet in a piece of wood. Both were considered the measure of power for an airgun.

Benjamin's 3030 BB gun was made for about a decade, starting in 1965.

Benjamin recognized this and advertised their new 3030 CO2 BB gun as being able to shoot through BOTH SIDES of a 5-gallon steel pail! They knew who their customers were and what they wanted! Of course in my day, cans were actually made of steel plate, and common airguns were nowhere near as powerful as they are today.

The 3030 ad speaks for itself

Super penetration from Sheridan
In the 1950s, Sheridan ran an ad showing the penetration of ONE INCH of wood! You think that didn't freak us out? Those demonstrations meant more to us as kids than foot-pounds would have. We didn't learn about foot-pounds of energy until eighth-grade science class, and, judging from the confusion among airgunners today, I'd say they haven't taught it in years.

Velocity is a selling point
Velocity became the big selling point until airgun velocity went so high that it no longer has any real meaning. I remember cars in the 1950s that had speedometers that read up to 120 mph, even though the cars they were in would top out at 95. Besides, where do you drive 120? I don't mean where CAN you do it - just where DO you do it? It's better to have a car that always starts and always gets you where you're going than to have bragging rights based on a speed that may not even be safe in that car. Real fast airguns aren't accurate at those speeds, SO WHO CARES?!

Foot-pounds make more sense
Foot-pounds bring things back into perspective. A Beeman Sportsman S500 generates about 5 foot-pounds at the muzzle. A Beeman R9 generates in excess of 14 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Which one is the better airgun for hunting? It's a no-brainer! A pellet from the R9 will still be at 6 foot-pounds (one more than the S500 at the muzzle!) at 45 yards! A REAL no-brainer!

Comparing guns by foot-pounds makes everything clear. If it takes 6 foot-pounds to humanely kill a squirrel, then no one needs to ask which air pistol is suitable for hunting squirrels. They all generate LESS than 6 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

This website has a handy energy calculator for you to make your own foot-pound determinations. Don't know what weight pellet they used for a gun's velocity test? Guess! It's a cinch the Beeman P1 doesn't get 600 f.p.s. with 25-grain .177 pellets. You can't even FIND 25-grain .177 pellets!

Try to get on board with energy figures, if you can. They can take you to the next level of airgun enjoyment.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Crosman's Challenger 2000 makes these the "good old days"

By B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, I covered an old classic, and some of you probably wish you had been around in the "good old days" to buy guns like the Crosman M1 Carbine. Well - I'm telling you right now - THESE are the good old days, too!

The best from Crosman
As proof, I submit the Crosman Challenger 2000. This CO2 target rifle was not made for the popular market but for serious NRA competition, but it became such a hit with airgunners (and right away, too) that Crosman had to make the gun for everyone.

Everything about the Challenger 2000 is designed for one thing - NRA Sporter-Class competition, and that's exactly why adult airgunners LOVE this gun! It's dead-on accurate, it feels great to hold and it has everything a shooter needs to punch the 10-ring out of a target at 33 feet.

Crosman and Daisy went separate ways
Daisy is Crosman's sternest competitor in this market, but Daisy went a different way when they designed their equivalent competition rifle for the NRA. They made their Avanti 888 Medalist a bulk-fill CO2 gun instead of one charged by powerlets. Now, there's nothing wrong or inferior about that, but the average shooter doesn't have bulk-fill equipment at home.

The Crosman Challenger runs on conventional 12-gram CO2 Powerlets (from Crosman - who else?). That makes it more of an average shooter's rifle than the Daisy, and, as such, it has a strong following among individual shooters (as opposed to organized teams). It's a gun you can take out of the box and be shooting in a few minutes, yet it gives away no accuracy to do so.

Loading is a breeze!
To load, all you do is pull back on a T-shaped rod. It is SO easy that I'm surprised Crosman hasn't yet used it on any of their sporting airguns. Since there is no magazine, the pellet lies easily in the loading trough, and a light push on the T-handle closes the breech for firing.

The rest of the gun has more great features
The stock is ambidextrous, as is the loading process. The stock also adjusts for length and the height of the comb. The trigger is good, but not an Olympic target-grade trigger, so there will be some creep. The sights are first-rate target sights, though designed to save you money.

The Challenger 2000 is not a magnum air rifle, and it does cost more than other Crosman air rifles - a lot more! But, it does what it was designed to do. If you're considering an affordable target air rifle, you had better check out this one!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun looks like its ancestor!

By B.B. Pelletier

Now here's an airgun you can really get used to! Not only does it resemble the real M1 Carbine very closely, it's also one of the most powerful spring-piston BB guns around.

Inspired by the real thing!
The M1 Carbine was a re-skinning of Crosman's successful model 350 BB repeater - so-named because that was the muzzle velocity. Careful attention was paid to make the M1 Carbine a close copy of the real thing.

The Crosman M1 Carbine is a realistic copy of the World War II carbine.

A springer in deep disguise!
For more than 20 years, I had assumed this BB gun was powered by CO2. First, because it was a Crosman, and they made so many CO2 guns at the time the M1 Carbine came out. The second reason was because I could not figure out how it could be cocked if it was a springer. At the time, I knew nothing about Quackenbush spring guns.

How it cocks
To cock the carbine, you grab the barrel and pull it back toward the receiver. Or, you can push the barrel back, but be careful not to put your hand in front of the muzzle when you do. This takes some real muscle, making the carbine a gun for older teenagers and adults, and even then not everyone will be able to cock it. The Daisy model 25 is somewhat hard to cock, but this gun is quite a bit harder.

Because a hand was on the barrel at the muzzle every time the gun was cocked, most M1 Carbines I've seen have well-worn finish in that area. Therefore, a gun with pristine finish should be worth a good premium.

The neatest thing
What looks like a magazine hanging down is actually a detachable box for carrying BBs. You have to remove them and load them into the gun or they'll just be ballast for your gun. More than half the carbines now in existence have lost their magazines, and an actual magazine is worth about as much as the gun, itself.

What looks like a magazine is
just a box for storing BBs.
The plastic lid slides back to open.

The powerplant in this gun is unique in the annals of airguns. As far as I know, only the Crosman 350, 3500 and M1 Carbine airguns have the poppet-type valve air control device. A flexible poppet valve very reminiscent of an automotive-type valve gives the gun its extra power. The air virtually explodes out when the valve is finally overcome.

The wood stock is best!
The gun was made with a wooden stock during the first year, then Crosman introduced a plastic stock with realistic wood grain pattern. They called the material Croswood, and it went on to become their stock material of choice for many years.

While the gun has a very fancy peep sight in the rear, accuracy is about standard for a BB gun. I can keep five shots in an inch and a half at 20 feet.

You should be able to find one in shootable condition for $50 to $60 without the magazine. With the mag, they're going for $90 to $100 today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Chronograph substitutes - a few simple tricks

By B.B. Pelletier

Don't own a chronograph but still want to know how one airgun compares to another? I have a few ways to do that with materials everyone has or can easily get.

Modeling clay
Let's begin with the best of all - modeling clay. Get it at a toy store or dollar store. It's the best inexpensive penetration medium I know of. You can even test powerful guns, such as the Webley Patriot, though it takes about 4" of clay to stop a pellet from one.

Modeling clay will also show pellet deformation for hollowpoints and wadcutters. And you can remove the pellets and reuse the clay. One tip, though: don't shoot into the clay right after you've "worked it." When modeling clay is warm from being worked, it's much softer than when it has rested and assumed room temperature again. You don't need to pop it in the referigerator, but let it cool to room temperature on its own before shooting into it.

Soap is a long-time favorite thing to shoot into. Ivory soap was used 50 years ago to prove the power and expansion of the then-new .22 Winchester Magnum cartridge. You can use almost any brand of soap, but the bars with square sides are often more convenient.

A special kind of transparent soap bar lets you see the pellet inside. It's called glycerin soap and is usually found in the beauty products section of a store. This kind of soap is great for seeing how hollowpoints perform. I don't know how close soap is to flesh - in terms of density - but at least it lets you test one gun against another or one pellet against another shot from the same gun.

The final testing medium is as old as little boys and airguns. Wood is a great way to test an airgun's power, except that it's hard to find two pieces with the same density. From one board to another, there's little to compare. I recommend choosing soft pine as your wood of choice, unless you have a good reason to choose another type.

Actually, something very much like wood was used as recently as the 1960s as a formal airgun testing medium. British writers shot at strawboards, which are thin boards made from compressed straw. They set the board up in lines about a half-inch apart and shot through as many boards as possible. At the end of a test, they could tell you that the Webley Mark III shot clean through 17 strawboards, while the BSF 55N shot through 21. It didn't tell you the velocity, but it did give you a good idea about which gun was more powerful.

So, don't feel lost because you haven't bought a chronograph yet. Get out there and test your airguns just the same!

Monday, July 11, 2005

How does cold weather affect different airgun powerplants?

By B.B. Pelletier

Today's topic was suggested by a reader who asked, "How are PCPs affected by the cold?" That's a good question for every type of airgun powerplant, so I included all of them in today's post.

CO2 is a "no go" in the cold
Most airgunners already know this, but I'm covering all the bases. Because the pressure of carbon dioxide gas depends on the temperature, a CO2 gun starts performing poorly below 40 degrees F. It remains gaseous to a much lower temperature, but it lacks the required pressure for use as an airgun propellant at those lower temperatures.

Another thing about CO2 guns is that they cool themselves as they fire. It doesn't even take a 40-degree day to freeze up a gun. You can actually freeze the operating parts of a CO2 gun on a 90-degree day if you shoot it fast enough. That's why the Drozd submachine gun has burst-fire rather than full-auto, which would freeze the mechanism.

Guns with steel springs are the next most affected!
Surprise! You probably thought spring guns with coiled steel mainsprings were impervious to the cold, but that's not the case. The lubricant inside the powerplant - mostly on the mainspring - is the culprit. When the temperature drops down around zero, these springers start exhibiting a loss of velocity that escalates quickly as the temperature drops.

Gas springs are better, but not perfect
I actually tested the velocity of a steel spring and gas spring gun at 50 degrees and zero degrees F. The steel spring gun lost 50 f.p.s. at zero degrees. The gas spring lost perhaps 5 f.p.s., which is negligible. A gas spring gun also has some lubrication in the powerplant, but the real culprit for loss of velocity is the decline in pressure inside the gas spring unit. So, if you want to hunt in cold weather with a spring rifle, choose the Beeman RX-2.

Precharged guns and other pneumatics are the champs!
For cold weather operation, the PCP or other pneumatic airgun is the clear winner. I put the PCP ahead of the multi-pump and single-stroke pneumatic because when the pump seals get cold and stiff, it takes some work to warm them up so they're flexible again. That might not be a problem in Tennessee - but in Minnesota or Alaska it can be.

A PCP, however, looses virtually no velocity at zero degrees. They might, if you shoot guns with steel breeches and hammers oiled with petroleum-based lubricants such as the Logun S-16. I haven't tested many of these at low temperature, but the lubrication of the action parts could cause some slowdown.

The Talon SS from AirForce is primarily made from synthetic and aluminum, and the lubes are either dry film or part of the materials, themselves. It makes heavy use of Delrin, a Dupont engineering plastic with excellent low-temperature lubricity. The Talon SS I tested had no loss of velocity down to 20 degrees below zero (I tested it on a separate day and was unable to get another to re-test the two springers or another PCP). It was the best low-temp airgun I tested.

That's it for cold-weather operations. We'll look at heat, wind and rain next.

Friday, July 08, 2005

How do PCP guns compare to multi-pumps?

By B.B. Pelletier

Precharged pneumatics (PCP) such as the S400 carbine from Air Arms are certainly popular these days. Can they be trusted? How do they stack up against a good old multi-pump pneumatic like the Benjamin 397 for reliability?

Three important differences between PCPs and multi-pumps
First, the modern PCP is built to a higher standard than the average multi-pump. More money goes into the materials in the gun, so it's bound to be better. They have precision barrels and carefully developed valves that control the air much more efficiently than most multi-pumps. Because they have to hold a lot of air in reserve, they are designed to do it. As long as they are always left charged, they seldom develop leaks. Multi-pumps would do better if their owners always left them with a pump of air in the reservoir, but because so few owners do that, they fail much sooner than they should.

Second, a PCP is not subjected to the stresses of constant pumping, which puts a strain on the receiver tube and often the barrel, as well. A PCP is filled and emptied without a lot of flexing of the gun.

Third, almost all PCPs are made from either steel or aircraft aluminum, where most multi-pumps are made of brass. These materials are stronger, yet the guns themselves are not subjected to the stress of pumping, so PCPs come out ahead.

Genuine problem areas
Where PCPs have problems are when their owners tinker with them and do unauthorized modifications. Many shooters who buy PCPs want to work on them, too, and quite often that leads to premature failures.

Another cause for concern is overfilling the reservoir. Everyone can count to 10, so a Crosman owner knows when he's crossing the line. For some reason, a few PCP owners haven't learned the lesson of valve lock, yet. I hear about shooters over-pressurizing their guns, then complaining that they're malfunctioning.

What if you combined the best features of multi-pumps & PCPs?
Decades ago, there were multi-pumps that shot more than one shot per fill. Benjamin had several, then there was the Vincent and, in the 1980s, a Korean-made gun called the Yewha. All these guns and others were multi-pumps that shot more then one shot per fill. They were hybrids - a combination of a multi-pump and a precharged gun. All of them were made of brass, not steel, yet they suffered no problems, despite being flexed by the pump mechanism AND having to store lots of high-pressure air.

A Vincent rifle that's lost all its finish. The rifle was pumped
70 times, then fired several shots before pumping again.

These guns proved the strength of the PCP concept. They DID have sealing problems, but that was due to the seals that were used at the time, not the design. A modern PCP is one of the most reliable airguns you can own, as long as you keep it filled and don't modify it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Caspian M1911A1 airsoft gas gun - a 6mm treat!

By B.B. Pelletier

If you're an action-pistol devotee, today's airsoft gun is for you! The KWC Caspian .45 gas pistol is a lot of fun in an inexpensive package.

For real action, it's hard to beat gas pistols
This pistol functions just like the prototype firearm. It recoils on every shot. The slide comes back and goes forward again, just like a genuine Colt pistol. The trigger is always crisp because it's always in the single-action mode (the blowback slide cocks the hammer). Firing is semiautomatic, meaning one shot per trigger pull with no cocking in between.

The pistol is powered by green gas, which is stored in the same magazine that also carries the 14 BBs of this gun's basic load. Each gas-up is enough to shoot two magazines of BBs. Though green gas is relatively low pressure, it's enough to send a light BB (0.12 grams) up to 300 f.p.s. For better accuracy, however, stick to 0.20-gram BBs that go about 235 f.p.s. The Hop Up is non-adjustable and has been regulated for 0.20-gram BBs.

You will find the synthetic wood grips appear quite authentic, though they are less expensive. They sport the licensed Caspian trademark and the Caspian name is also on the slide. Most of the gun is synthetic, though a very high grade that feels gun-like to the touch. There are enough metal parts, including the heavy magazine, to give a realistic feel to the gun. If anything, it feels like a titanium lightweight.

The rear sight is adjustable in both directions, and it supports the extra accuracy this pistol has to offer. Coupled with the good trigger and the correct M1911A1 grip, the sights make this more than just a plinker. You can do some serious shooting with this Caspian, and it will help you hone your skills for any other pistol - air or firearm.

At the price, this is a real bargain!
What you get for the money with the Caspian is amazing. The functionality and operation of this gun compares favorably with the more expensive Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa 5.1. Yes, the Marui does have a few more features, but both are powerful, accurate blowback gas pistols. If you're on a budget, the Caspian is a great value in a fully functional gas pistol.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

How safe is a PCP airgun?

By B.B. Pelletier

How safe is a PCP airgun? That's a good question, especially if you're thinking about buying one.

PCPs are the oldest of all airgun designs. Some are more than 400 years old and still in working condition. There are no spring guns that old to compare to. But, let's talk about the bad side of a PCP.

Has any PCP ever blown up?
I've heard rumors of this, but I've never seen real facts. I do suspect there have been some accidents because there are a lot of tinkerers in the world, and I have seen some scary stuff. Like the guy who took a brass CO2 airgun (runs on 900 psi CO2) and, without strengthening it in any way, turned it into a 3,000 psi PCP. If that gun blew up would that be a real accident or just stupidity's reward? But, for an unaltered factory airgun to blow up, a whole lot of unlikely things would have to go wrong.

There are also some safety regulations on our side. The Department of Transportation regulates pressure vessels in the U.S., and they require safety burst disks on any vessel greater than two inches outside diameter. That they do not require them for smaller vessels means they are inherently safe and don't present a great enough hazard to be concerned.

The one airgun that has a reservoir that qualifies for a burst disk, has it - the AirForce tank. To date, there has NEVER been a report of a burst disk failure in an AirForce air tank. If the tank's internal pressure were to rise too high, the burst disk is designed to pop harmlessly and release all the air inside. It might shock you if it happened, but there would be no danger of injury.

What about an air reservoir rusting out?
This is another persistent rumor I've never actually seen happen. People get hyper-concerned about moisture in the air they use to fill their guns, and these stories get started. But, a 300-year-old PCP that still has its original brazed iron reservoir in good condition is proof enough that a rust-out catastrophe will probably not happen soon.

How about a petroleum/air explosion?
This is a dangerous possibility when shooters lubricate with the wrong oils, but, once again, I have no evidence that an accident ever happened. Lubricate high-pressure air vessels with pure silicone, only - never with petroleum-based oil or grease.

Two real PCP accidents
The two accidents I know of happened within a few miles of each other. One was an experimenter who was pressure-testing a reservoir he had made. He should have used hydraulic oil, but he didn't know that and used air, instead. The reservoir distorted as he filled it and finally blew up. He suffered no injuries, thank goodness, and now he does all testing with hydraulic oil. The other incident was a rubber-covered air hose that blew out while I was filling my gun. The hose was aftermarket and NOT up to specs for PCP use. I learned my lesson without harm, and I'm passing it on to you.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

How to optically center a scope

By B.B. Pelletier

Today's post answers a question I received yesterday. To get the best performance from a scope, its adjustment knobs need to be in the optimum range, which is very close to the scope's optical center.

What is the optical center of a scope?
The optical center refers to the reticle and the field of view. An optically-centered scope shows zero reticle movement against a distant backdrop when the scope tube is rotated in a complete circle. Theoretically, that's possible to achieve, but I've never seen it. The best I've seen is a reticle that moves about a quarter inch against a target 20 yards away when the scope tube is rotated in a complete circle

Use a box instead of a gun to optically center your scope
I suppose you could rotate the scope in its rings if the rings' top caps (the top half of the rings) were removed and the turrets would clear the top of the gun when they came around, but I like another method.

With a small box sitting on a shooting bench, cut two v-shaped slots into the top edges and rest the scope on those two slots. Once the scope is focused on the target (which is 20 yards away), look through the scope and put a dot or mark on the target close to where the crosshairs are. It helps to have two people when you do this - one looking through the scope without moving it and the other downrange to draw the mark.

Rotate the scope tube around a complete circle and watch how the center of the crosshairs moves against your mark. It will probably move several inches at first. Figure out which adjustment knob to move and make your correction to reduce reticle movement against the target. This takes some time.

On the best day, I've adjusted a scope in 45 minutes. At worst, it took almost two hours to get it as good as it would get. Remember, it's almost impossible to remove the last bit of movement out of the reticle. Both the windage and elevation knobs will probably need some adjustment.

DO NOT think you can count the clicks of adjustment between lockup and complete spring relax and go to the center of that number for the optical center. It sounds good, but that way never works. Optical center is more precise than the center of the click adjustment range.

Once the scope is optically centered, put it in an adjustable mount like B-Square's AA adjustable mount and use the mount's adjustments to zero the scope and gun. Once you're zeroed, you'll still have all the scope's best range of adjustments remaining.

Is optical centering nesessary?
Absolutely not! You can just mount a scope and use it without going through this drill. But, if your scope runs out of adjustments or if you find yourself shooting to the right of the target at close range and to the left at long range, centering will cure the problem.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Does velocity drop as the pressure drops in a PCP tank?

by B.B. Pelletier

Happy birthday, USA!

Today's question is one I hear a lot from newer shooters. They know the air pressure in a precharged gun reservoir drops with every shot, and they wonder how that affects velocity. For this discussion, I'll ignore guns with regulators, though I'll come back to them one day.

You might think velocity drops as the pressure declines, but that's not the case. To understand why, you need to understand how a typical knock-open valve works - the kind found in all modern PCP airguns.

How a knock-open air valve works
A knock-open valve has an airtight seal mounted around a hollow pipe called a valve stem. When the valve stem is struck by a weight called a hammer, it moves the seal off its seat, allowing high-pressure air to rush through a hole in the side of the stem. As long as the valve seal is off its seat, the air is rushing through the stem. The pressure inside the reservoir pushes the valve seal closed, plus there is a small valve return-spring that starts the valve seal returning to its seat.

When the valve seal contacts the seat again, it stops more air from escaping the reservoir until the valve stem is struck again. The time the valve seal is off its seat, combined with the air pressure in the tank, determines how much air escapes the valve. But, there IS a limit to this!

The valve only opens so far!
The return spring sits on a seat of its own, behind and in line with the valve stem. When the return spring is fully compressed, that’s as far as the valve can open, no matter how hard it's hit. Since most guns are adjusted by their makers, the hammer and mainspring are already at or very near the maximum for that valve. Hitting it harder just destroys it.

Let air pressure do its work
The knock-open valve regulates itself within limits. As air pressure in the reservoir drops, it puts less force into closing the valve, so the valve remains open just a fraction longer. That lets more air escape. Though the air is at a slightly lower pressure, there is more of it (because the valve is open longer). If your barrel is long enough to benefit from it, you get the same velocity shot to shot.

Once the pressure drops below a certain point, this relationship ends and velocity does start to drop off. Therefore, every PCP airgun has a number of shots at a consistent velocity. The designer of the airgun determines what the number of shots and the velocity will be by selecting a return spring rate, a mainspring rate, a hammer weight, the length of the valve stroke and the size of the valve stem passageway. Guns with adjustable power have a much broader set of values, so they work with differing hammer strikes, and they get more shots when adjusted to lower power. It sounds very technical, and it is until the design has been proven. Then, it becomes very simple for the owner to use. Such is the miracle of the modern PCP airgun.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Lead pellets and ricochet

By B.B. Pelletier

"Do lead pellets bounce back?" is the gist of a question/comment I received yesterday on the Shooting BB guns post from June 28. This is a good question, because it relates to shooting safety.

Lead doesn't bounce straight back - but be cautious just the same
The article was about shooting steel BBs. Steel BBs bounce back with almost all their velocity. How fast they return depends on what they hit. The harder and more immovable the object, the faster they rebound. There is no place for the energy to go but back into the BB in the form of velocity in the opposite direction.

Lead, on the other hand, deforms easily, absorbing energy as it does. Think of it this way - a BB is like a baseball. When it contacts a hard, fast-moving bat, it goes in the opposite direction very fast. If, instead of the baseball you threw a lump of modeling clay, it would go splat on the bat and fly only a few feet. Lead is like the modeling clay.

When a pure lead pellet hits a hard, immovable surface face-on, its velocity converts to energy. The pellet starts deforming immediately. If velocity is low, the pellet flattens and falls to the ground. When there is too much velocity the lead cannot deform enough to absorb all the energy, so the pellet starts breaking off into smaller pieces. Some of those pieces fly away at high speed. When the impact is faster than 700 f.p.s., some of the smallest ones will absorb too much energy and become super-heated. If they get too hot, they flash to incandescence like a spark. Veteran airgunners who use steel bullet traps have seen sparks in their trap from time to time. These are fragments of lead flashing to incandescence.

Earlier, I said lead pellets do not bounce straight back - and they don't. But they do deflect, which is a grazing sort of "bounce" called a ricochet. The angle of deflection is dependent on the angle of impact, and it's not always easy to figure out. If a pellet strikes a hard immovable surface at exactly 90 degrees (that's straight on), it first smashes against the target, then parts break off and start deflecting on angles away from the impact. These deflection angles will not be 180 degrees, which is straight back at the shooter, but they will be greater than 90 degrees, which means they will come back in the same GENERAL direction as the initial shot. If the shooter is 10 feet away from a flat steel plate, someone 10 feet to either side of him might be hit by lead fragments splashing back.

If the fragments strike a second surface, the fun begins! They deflect off the second surface at a different angle and some of them COULD come back at the shooter. By this time, they've struck two surfaces and deformed twice, so a lot of velocity has been lost. If you are just 10 feet from the trap, you can still be hit pretty hard. A large lead fragment traveling at 400 f.p.s. (initially from a gun with a 900 f.p.s. muzzle velocity) will penetrate your skin and draw blood. I picked one out of my cheek just two months ago while doing some velocity testing.

Gonna end here, but there's probably more to say. Write me.