Friday, December 30, 2005

Daisy's 953

by B.B. Pelletier

We have one or possibly two readers who want to know about the Daisy 953 TargetPro, so I thought today was as good a time as any to look at it.

Technical specs
The 953 is a single-stroke pneumatic rifle that Daisy lists with their Powerline guns. It comes in .177 caliber only and shoots lead pellets. The maximum muzzle velocity is listed as 560 f.p.s., so the 953 is faster than the 853. Our reader wanted to know how the two rifles compare, as far as accuracy is concerned, so I did some research. Daisy says the 953 will put all its pellets into one hole at 10 yards if the shooter does his part, so you can consider this to be an accurate rifle. When I spoke to the Daisy folks at the SHOT Show last February, they told me that they thought the 953 would be an affordable alternative to the costlier 853 for shooters who just want to shoot informal target.

The rifle weighs 6.4 lbs., which is almost a full pound heavier than the 853. It has a rifled barrel with (I believe) 10 grooves. It's not the same Lothar Walther barrel that's found in an 853, which is where some of the savings comes from, I'm sure. But, that doesn't mean it's not accurate. Daisy has a lot of confidence in this gun as a target shooter, so I'm sure it's accurate. It comes with front and rear fiber optic sights, which are ideal for general shooting.

The 953 has a five-shot clip that indexes the next pellet when the bolt is cocked. A single-shot clip is also included, if you want to load and shoot one at a time. The pump handle is long enough to ease the pumping effort. Because this is a single-stroke, you pump it only once for each shot. The trigger is a two-stage with a lot of creep in stage two. This is no different than the 853. You can get used to it, because tens of thousands of kids compete with the 853 every year.

Pellet choices
If you want to shoot targets, a nice wadcutter is the best choice. For my money, there is nothing better than the Gamo Match pellet. They are somewhat less expensive than other top brands, yet I find they shoot just as good. For hunting, I would go with the Daisy pointed pellet. They're also priced right, and I've used them enough to trust them in most airguns.

Sight choices
If you really want to shoot targets, consider the Daisy 5899 receiver sight. It's the same sight that comes on the 853, and you'll get fine click adjustments between sight settings. This sight has some slack in the gears, so be prepared to turn two or three clicks when changing the adjustment direction to remove the slack.

Of course, you can go a different direction and select the Daisy Electronic Point Sight. This is a red dot sight that doesn't magnify the target. It projects a red luminous dot on a glass screen, which superimposes itself on the target when you look through the glass. It's a quick way to acquire your target and about as accurate as open sights.

Pest control
The 953 is also touted as a pest control airgun. It can do the job as long as you keep the range reasonable. Rats, pigeons and ground squirrels within 20 yards are okay with head shots, but I wouldn't go after anything much larger.

Daisy officials told me they created the 953 to be for general shooters. They knew a lot of folks were buying 853s for plinking, and the 953 takes over that job very nicely.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Airgun power with heavy and light pellets

by B.B. Pelletier

We received a lot of comments to last Friday's post, Why foot-pounds is the most meaningful airgun power rating. One of them was a question from "cold shooter" about something I said in that post: "Please explain why a CO2 pistol would prefer or gain more energy from a heavy weight pellet." The full statement I made went something like this: "Spring-air guns are more efficient (have more power) with lightweight pellets, while pneumatics and CO2 guns do better with heavy pellets." Today, we'll examine this phenomenon.

First, a new book
Trust me, this book is very much related to this discussion. The Practical Guide to Man-Powered Bullets by Richard Middleton has just been published. It's an excellent discussion of energy transfer, momentum and the design of catapults, crossbows, bullet-bows and airguns. I think this book clarifies the spring-air versus pneumatic question quite well. It's related to energy transfer.

If you want to understand airguns better, this new book provides many excellent discussions on energy, momentum and the ballistics of airguns.

To acceleration, time is everything!
One of our readers was the first to explain this in the comments to the same posting where the question was asked. He said, "A quick answer to cold shooter's question. Heavier pellets stay in the barrel longer, which allows the released CO2 gas more time to expand and transfer more thermal energy into kinetic energy." To simplify that a bit, the more time the gas has to push on the pellet, the faster it will go!

Spring-air guns are quick!
A modern spring-piston airgun, like the Beeman R11 MkII generates power when a steel piston is rapidly shoved forward by a coiled steel spring. The piston compresses the air in front of it, shoving it through a tunnel called a transfer port, where it travels to the breech of the barrel. If a pellet is in the breech, the air is stopped and cannot move forward, so the air pressure builds instead. An immovable pellet on one end and a piston compressing air on the other causes the air pressure to rise quickly in the transfer port. When the pressure reaches a certain point, the tiny lead pellet can no longer restrain it, so the air shoves the pellet up the barrel.

Springers just puff!
While the air compressed by the piston is at high pressure, there isn't very much of it. Once the pellet starts moving, the pressure starts dropping as the volume of the bore behind it increases. By the time the pellet has travelled 9" to 11" up the bore, the air is almost back to normal pressure, so it stops shoving the pellet. By this time, the pellet is traveling as fast as it will ever go. Since the time of acceleration is very short, lightweight pellets tend to go much faster than heavyweights. They resist the air pressure less so they start moving sooner, affording more time to accelerate.

While gas guns blast!
Both pneumatics and CO2 guns use a greater volume of gas than the spring gun generates. In the case of CO2, it's not at a very high pressure (900 psi, compared to about 2,000 psi in a spring gun) but there is so much more of it that it keeps on pushing far longer than the tiny puff from the spring gun. As long as the barrel is long enough to put the pressure to good use, both pneumatics and CO2 guns will accelerate heavy pellets to higher velocities than spring guns can, and that's where they get their extra power. If you were to cut the barrel of a pneumatic very short, you would also cut the power. The AirForce Talon SS provides an excellent example of this. With the standard 12" barrel, the gun gets 830-850 f.p.s. with .22 caliber Crosman Premiers. When you install an optional 24" barrel on the gun, the velocity of that pellet jumps to just over 1,000 f.p.s. - without changing anything else!

However, the Talon SS still generates more power with its 12" barrel with heavy pellets than it does with light ones (26 foot-pounds with Beeman Kodiaks versus 23 with Crosman Premiers), because the pellet is accelerated all the way to the end of the barrel.

CO2 is even more dramatic!
CO2 is a gas that changes pressure with temperature, so if the gun you shoot is relatively warm, the gas maintains its pressure much longer. Also, the large size of the CO2 molecule means the valve has to remain open longer, so fresh gas is replenishing the supply in the barrel. The results can be dramatic! A Farco air shotgun, for example, can generate 100 foot-pounds on a warm day, due to a very long barrel and CO2. And, the Farco provides the perfect example of light versus heavy pellets. A 120-grain .433 ball produced 65 foot-pounds in my gun, while a 245-grain load of shot made 105 foot-pounds on the same day. It doesn't get more dramatic than that!

This is a good experiment for your new chronograph. You will find some anomalies, but in general, this rule will hold true.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

How to sight in an airgun with open sights

by B.B. Pelletier

We have an emergency today. Seems one of our readers received an air rifle for Christmas and needs help sighting it in. Here is his comment, "I have just got a new Gamo Shadow 1000 and I was wondering if you knew how to sight in the open sights?" The nice thing about answering this question is the answer applies to all open sights on all airguns - not just the Gamo.

First - what is the sight picture?
With open sights, there are a number of different sight pictures to choose from. The one you select must be used every time you sight the rifle, or else the sight-in will be invalid. The Shadow 1000 comes with fiber optic sights, front and rear, so the sight picture is a red bead resting down in the U-shaped rear notch between two green dots. If there were no fiber optics, this would simply be a front bead resting down in the rear U-shaped notch. The front bead is held on the spot where you want the pellet to go. This is called a center-hold sight picture, and it is commonly used for sporting purposes.

Starting the sight-in
I like to start sighting in an air rifle at 10 feet. When I'm that close to the target, I know the pellet will land somewhere on the paper, no matter how far off the sights are. Be sure to wear safety goggles if you do this, because you will be hit by lead particles splashing back off the backstop. To minimize backsplash, cover the face of the target trap with cardboard, and mount the target paper to that. I like to use a clean sheet of paper, approximately 9" tall by 6" wide. I simply take a real target and turn it around so there is nothing on the paper. I draw an aim point with a ballpoint pen. It should be a circle about 1/4" across. Fill it in with the pen, so it looks dark.

The first three shots
Using the proper technique for a spring-piston air rifle, because the Shadow 1000 is sensitive to hold, shoot three shots at the aim point. Use the center hold sight picture. The three shots should be very close to each other. The center of the group is where your rifle is currently sighted. I like to bring the group over to the center of the aim point (left/right) first. Here is the big tip of this post - always move the rear sight in the same direction you want to move the shot group. If your first group is too far to the left, crank the adjustment knob on the side of the rear sight to move the notch to the right. On the Gamo, there are index marks on the sight plate and numbers on both adjustment wheels to let you know which way you are going. I like to watch the rear notch actually move as I adjust it.

The Shadow rear sight is clearly marked for adjustment.

Get the shot group centered, left and right
Keep adjusting the rear sight windage wheel (the one on the right side) until a three-shot group is centered on the aim point. Don't worry about the elevation yet. If you adjust the windage knob in the wrong direction (it happens to me all the time), simply crank it back that much more on the next adjustment. Once the shot group is reasonably centered, left to right, you're ready to adjust elevation.

Elevation adjustment
Note how high above the center of the bore the sights are. It will probably be less than one inch, but pretty close. That is how far BELOW the aim point we want the pellet to strike! The adjustments are made with the large elevation wheel located in front of the rear notch. Turning counterclockwise elevates the shot group. When you have the shots centered on the aim point and as far below the point as the sights are above the center of the bore, it's time to move on.

Move back to 10 yards
At this distance, you want the pellet to strike in line with the aim point left to right and one inch below the aim point. Make the necessary sight corrections to do this. When you are grouping in the right place, it's time to finish sighting-in.

Move back to 20 yards
Here you want the pellet to strike the aim point. You'll probably have to make a new target with a one-inch aim point in order to see it. Try to get your group in the center of the aim point at this distance. Once you're satisfied, you will be sighted-in at 20 to 35 yards, with the Gamo Shadow 1000. At any other range, you will be low. Shoot several groups at distances outside the sight-in distance to learn where your groups will be.

This procedure takes longer to read than it does to actually perform. You should be sighted-in within 5 to 10 minutes this way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Can you hunt with a BB gun?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today's posting is inspired by a question we received last week. "I'm looking to buy my first bb gun. Should I look for a combo (bb and pellet) or should I look for one or the other? Are bb's less accurate in a combo? Also, at what power can you start killing a squirrel?"

I consider this to be three separate questions, and that's how I will address it. Since killing squirrels seems to be the ultimate objective, let's start with that.

1. BB guns ARE NOT for killing squirrels!
A BB gun is not a good hunting gun for many reasons. First, some BB guns (such as the Daisy Red Ryder) are too weak to reliably kill anything larger than a small insect. When we hunt, we want to kill as quickly as we can. BB guns don't do that. The second reason BB guns are bad for hunting is the BB, itself. It's made of steel and, therefore, does not deform in game. Deformation causes tissue damage, speeding death, and a steel BB is as far from that ideal as you can get. Finally, a steel BB is too small in caliber to do enough damage, no matter how fast it travels. Even when it goes 750 f.p.s., a speed some airguns can achieve, it's still too slow to do the job in a humane way. I consider a .177 caliber pellet too small for hunting, but there are a great number of airgun hunters who prove me wrong all the time.

For hunting, you need this!
You need an accurate pellet that will penetrate to a vital part of your quarry and not over-penetrate. A pure lead pellet will deform the best, and deformation causes tissue damage (good) and expends energy in the quarry (also good). Synthetic, lead-free pellets often travel completely through the animal, exiting the other side (not good) and leaving a painful, but not immediately deadly wound (definitely not good). So, the animal runs off to hide and may suffer a slow and painful death. BBs are as bad as synthetic pellets when it comes to inflicting non-lethal wounds.

Do NOT discipline animals with a BB gun!
This is just cruel. Even a weak BB gun can break the skin and start a septic wound in a small animal. Find another way to make your point.

2. Are BBs less accurate in a combo?
This refers to a gun that can shoot both BBs and pellets, like the Crosman 760 that so many airgunners love. However, the question is stated backwards. BBs aren't accurate in ANYTHING except the Daisy 499! All other BB guns are area-fire guns, at best! What is less accurate in a combo gun is pellets! Because the bore has to be made for both .177 pellets and .172 steel BBs, it can't possibly shoot pellets as accurately as a dedicated barrel. So, if you plan to hunt with certain airguns, it would be wise to select one that is not a combination gun. If that's all you have, limit your shooting distance to the range at which you can hit an American quarter (a 1"/25mm circle) every time. And, use lead pellets!

3. Should I look for a combo?
The decision is yours, alone, but here are some reasons to buy combos. You like shooting and may not always have pellets readily available. BBs are cheaper, so if your gun shoots both, you have the best of both worlds. Or, you want the fastest BB gun you can buy. The combos are usually at the high end of power for BB guns. Or, maybe you are just fascinated that a gun can shoot both types of ammo. I know people who will buy them for that reason, alone.

The bottom line is that I do not recommend hunting game with any BB gun. For hunting, I usually recommend a pellet gun shooting lead pellets in .22 caliber. I know a lot of hunters will disagree with my opinion, but this reader asked, so I told him.

4. At what power can you reliably kill a squirrel?
I'll tell you a little secret. Squirrels are very tough critters! Plenty of hunters hit squirrels with 40-grain lead bullets from a .22 long rifle and still lose their game. Squirrels are very tough animals, especially when compared to similar-sized game such as rats. A rat dies twice as easily as a squirrel, in my experience. I would recommend a .22 caliber rifle that shoots no less than 12 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Personally, I prefer a 25 foot-pound .22 pellet rifle for squirrels. I like good head shots as opposed to body shots, and I stay within the range at which I know I can hit a quarter. One of my favorite hunting air rifles is a .22-caliber AirForce Talon SS shooting JSB Exact pellets.

To get my hunting license in Germany, I had to pass both a written test and a shooting test. It took weeks of classes and study to prepare for that test, but I learned a lot about animals, anatomy and bullet placement. I wish we had the same requirement in this country, so hunters would know something about the game they go after before they go afield. Short of that, I guess the best thing to do is to read about your sport as you practice it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Lubricating your spring gun: Part 2 - cocking linkage, breech seal and trigger

by B.B. Pelletier

Happy day after Christmas! I hope your holiday was as happy as mine.

Because I unknowingly repeated a posting last week (Tod brought it to my attention), I reviewed the posts made since the September 30 index. I also looked over your comments and discovered I hadn't answered some questions. Other readers stepped in for me and I'm grateful, but there was one request that I would like to act on. Bill asked if I would post some close-up photos of some of the technical parts and terms of airguns that get tossed around in the blog. I think that's a great idea, so I will do it over a series of future posts. I'll not run them together, to keep from boring the old-timers, but perhaps at the end I will post a mini-index of these things. Or, maybe, I can talk Pyramyd Air into letting me make all the posts into one article they can put on their site!

Okay, let's get going with today's topic: lubricating spring guns. We'll start with the cocking linkage.

Cocking linkages
There are several types of spring-gun cocking linkages, but they all do the same thing, so they all need the same treatment. A cocking linkage connects the piston and mainspring of an airgun to the hand of the shooter. This varies in only one instance that I know of, and that's the Rutten rifle, which uses a high-torque electric motor to cock the gun. Cocking linkages need to be lubed with either moly grease or a good-quality petroleum grease. Some people use a lithium-based grease, and that would also work well.

The breakbarrel spring gun uses the barrel as a lever for cocking. The barrel rotates on a large bolt that is part of the cocking linkage. On better guns, there are thin washers on either side of what is called the baseblock (the metal slab the barrel rides in), and they keep sideways play to a minimum. The best lube for both these washers and the barrel pivot bolt is moly grease. The moly penetrates the steel surfaces under cocking pressure, and your gun is practically lubricated for life in this area.

When the rifle is cocked, the barrel baseblock pivots on a bolt held between between two action forks. The cocking link connecting the barrel to the piston attaches to the bottom of the baseblock. All these joints need lubrication.

The other place(s) breakbarrel cocking linkages need lubrication is in the movable joints that connect the barrel to the piston. Use moly here, too, if you can. If your gun has a sliding steel connector that rides in the piston and receives the end of the cocking link, like Weihrauchs do, lube all those moving surfaces with moly.

A sidelever or underlever spring gun uses a separate linkage for cocking while the barrel remains still. This mechanism gets lubed the same way the barrel pivot joint and cocking linkage does on the breakbarrel. There will be no large washers in the main pivot joint of this type of cocking linkage, because the linkage is designed specifically for this job - and a little sideways play in the lever doesn't hurt accuracy.

That dark circle around the bore is a leather breech seal! It's been there for 28 years and still works.

Breech seals
There are two types of barrel breech seals - leather and synthetic. Leather needs to be lubricated often; synthetic seals pretty much take care of themselves. The breech seal keeps the breech tight when the gun is fired. At that moment, there is a small amount of high-pressure air trying to exit the transfer port, but it is blocked by the pellet in the breech. For a tiny fraction of a second, that air is contained by the breech seal! If you put talcum powder on the breech of a breakbarrel rifle, you'll probably see a tiny puff of powder when the gun fires. More than a tiny puff means the seal leaks, BUT - don't assume a seal leaks just by its appearance - be certain! Breech seals can look horrible but still work just fine.

Some triggers must never be lubricated because they are permanently lubed at the factory. All AirForce rifles have their triggers permanently lubed with a dry moly coating. If you were to put oil or grease on them, you could ruin the trigger's function and void the limited lifetime warranty.

Other triggers can benefit from a small amount of moly grease at just the right spot. The Rekord trigger, found on Weihrauch and Beeman R-series rifles (except the RX-2), and the close-copy TX 200 trigger benefit from moly grease at the sear contact point.

The Beeman R1 book describes in detail how to disassemble spring-piston air rifles.

Some disassembly required
Some spring guns can be made very smooth through the proper lubrication. I've purposely not gone into the disassembly required to get to many of the parts mentioned above. Those who can get to them will find a way, and those who shouldn't are better off not taking their guns apart. There are a few books that show how to disassemble these guns such as the The Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle. If this is something you want to do, please get a book first. Otherwise, you're better off sending your airgun to one of the airgunsmiths who can do the job professionally.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Why foot-pounds is the most meaningful airgun power rating

by B.B. Pelletier

I posted an article on foot-pounds back on July 15. A fellow calling himself "nordattack" took issue with what I said. I told him I would need to think about what he had said, then make my reply. Instead, I forgot to do anything about it. On December 21 an anonymous poster very clearly made the argument I should have made, so I'll give the credit for this post to whoever that was. Here is why I believe foot-pounds is the MOST ACCURATE method to rate power in an airgun.

nordattack proved my point!
nordattack said, "If we are simply told an airgun has 25 foot pounds at the muzzle, again without knowing the weight of the pellet, we are clueless. I mean it could be a 900 caliber pellet going 5 feet per second!" No sir, we are not clueless. I can tell you A LOT of things about an airgun that produces 25 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Here goes!

No manufacturer is going to show their own gun in a bad light.
We know that a spring gun almost always generates greater power with light pellets, while a pneumatic or CO2 gun does just the reverse. So, depending on the powerplant, we can at least determine the range of pellet weights used for testing, if not the exact pellet. If the gun in question is a Diana RWS 350 Magnum, which is a spring gun, and .177 caliber, it has to shoot 6.9-grain Hobby pellets at 1,277 f.p.s. to generate 25 foot-pounds. Since that's too fast for that rifle (it tops out at about 1,150 f.p.s. in .177), the stated energy is probably false. In .177, an RWS 350 Magnum probably produces a little more than 20 foot-pounds (6.9-grain pellet moving 1,150 f.p.s. at the muzzle).

If, however, the spring rifle happens to be a .22 caliber 350 Magnum, then to produce 25 foot-pounds it would have to shoot 11.9-grain .22-caliber Hobby pellets at 972 f.p.s., which IS believable! And, if it does that, it will probably also shoot 21-grain .22-caliber Kodiaks at about 700 f.p.s., which generates 22.85 foot-pounds. Can I rely on that number? Not exactly, but I can be reasonably certain that the rifle won't shoot .22 Kodiaks as fast as 775 f.p.s., but that it will be faster than 675 f.p.s. I arrived in that ballpark from the stated foot-pounds, even though I know that, to get those foot-pounds, the manufacturer had to shoot the lightest pellet it could find.

How do you know spring guns get more energy from light pellets, while pneumatics get more energy from heavy pellets?
Simple! I tested several different pellets and observed the results. You can do the same. While this phenomenon is not 100 percent guaranteed, it will turn out that way most of the time.

Knowing the muzzle energy tells you a lot about the airgun!
If you tell me a certain airgun produces 30 foot-pounds in .22 caliber, I know from experience that the gun has enough power to shoot 28-grain Eun Jin pellets. If it's a spring gun, I know it was tested with light pellets and will only generate about 25 foot-pounds with Eun Jins. Going to the energy calculator on the Pyramyd Air website, I can convert that to a muzzle velocity of 634 f.p.s. If the gun is a PCP, I know that it was probably tested with Eun Jins to get the stated 30 foot-pounds. That's 694 f.p.s. And, I know that it will get less energy with Kodiaks, perhaps 27 foot-pounds or so, which turns out to be 761 f.p.s. Those numbers are not exact, but they are in the ballpark, and that's what the energy level of airguns can tell me.

Velocity, alone, has much less meaning
Telling me the muzzle velocity alone is like saying, "Here's a partial score - Cleveland 11...." You didn't tell me who they were playing nor what kind of game they were playing. I remember reading about a Beeman P1 that some guy converted to shoot 1/8-inch ball bearings, just so he would get 800 f.p.s. The converted gun was a smoothbore, so the accuracy was lost, but he had that magic number! Velocity by itself is meaningless.

Muzzle energy tells the whole story!
Muzzle energy, however, is the combination of both velocity and the weight of the projectile. Because we know the general span of pellet weights for each caliber, muzzle energy clues us into BOTH pellet weight and velocity at the same time. Knowing the performance of the various powerplants (i.e., spring guns favor light pellets, PCPs and CO2 guns like heavy pellets) allows us to quickly determine the gun's performance range with all types of ammunition.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Johnson Indoor Target Gun

by B.B. Pelletier

The Johnson Indoor Target gun was a slingshot with a stock!

In the 1940s and early 1950s, the Johnson Indoor Target Gun was sold by sporting goods stores like Stoegers. Although I am calling it an airgun, it isn't actually operated by air. It is really a catapult gun - sort of a slingshot with a trigger.

Blue Book!
I have touted the Blue Book of Airguns Fifth Edition so many times that you're probably sick of it by now. However, in the case of the Johnson, they have a few errors. First - is the name. They call it the Johnson Indoor Target "RIFLE," when it doesn't even have a barrel, let alone rifling. I'm showing a closeup of the printing on the right side of the gun, and we'll let you decide.

Clearly a gun and not a rifle, the Johnson doesn't even HAVE a barrel!

Second - they list the caliber as No. 6 birdshot, like the Daisy .118-caliber Targeteer and the Sharpshooter catapult pistols. In reality, the Johnson shoots regular steel BBs. It's a repeater in that it stores many BBs onboard in a spring-loaded magazine on top of the gun, but it seems more like a single-shot because of a rather involved cocking procedure.

A very expensive gun!
In 1948, the price for a Johnson was $15. At the same time, there were two Savage .22 rimfires for less money, and a Benjamin 132 pistol went for $13.50! Perhaps, that's the reason we encounter so many new or nearly new Johnsons today. About 10 years ago, brand-new, old-stock Johnsons still in the box were being sold at airgun shows for $100. I saw one of these as recently as three years ago at Roanoke. Although the price had climbed to $120, it was still an unused gun! This availability of pristine examples has conspired to keep run-of-the-mill guns under $60.

The boxes are all disintegrating
Johnson boxes are made from acidic pasteboard and, as a result, every one of them is disintegrating today. The ends fall off and a cheesecloth screen pasted inside the top is turning to white powder. I suppose a paper conservator could stop the damage, but I doubt whether many boxes will be saved. In 50 years, there probably won't be a Johnson box left.

Each gun sat inside a box that turned into a shooting gallery with metal spinners on a wire stand that connected to the box. The cheesecloth hung behind to stop the shots. There was also a small bundle of replacement rubber bands.

The gun has fully adjustable front and rear sights. The rear is a peep sight that actually works very well, while the front adjusts for windage. The crisp trigger-pull makes it possible to hit very small targets at close range.

Surgical rubber tubing makes a handy replacement for the original Johnson rubber bands. This arrangement is inside the top cover, where the band can be captured by the launcher during cocking and loading.

The mechanism that both cocked and loaded the gun

Weird cocking!
To cock and load, a pair of metal fingers at the "breech" are squeezed together and pushed forward, pushing a plastic launcher in front of them. A groove in the launcher captures the rear of the rubber band and the entire mechanism now slides to the rear, where the sear catches it with a click. As it passes a metal release lever in the magazine, one BB is dropped into the launcher seat.

Velocity depends on the strength of the rubber band, and my own gun can fling a BB up to 101 f.p.s. It never varies by more than two f.p.s., which makes it even more stable than an airgun. Of course, 100 f.p.s. isn't much, but the scale of the target gallery is perfect for it.

I admit I don't shoot mine very much. It's too cumbersome and too slow! But, I'll always keep it for the sheer curiosity of the thing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

How consistent is a multi-pump?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, we're going to look at shot-to-shot consistency in an airgun many consider inexpensive - the Sheridan Blue Streak. And, of course, anything I say about the Blue Streak holds true for the Silver Streak, as well. This is an experiment I read about years ago, and it's a real eye-opener. It also gives you something to do with that new chronograph you get for Christmas.

Consistency is king!
In the world of airguns, the watchword is consistency, as in how close each shot's velocity is to all the others in a given string. I have known shooters, and perhaps you have too, who get so wrapped up in the quest for the lowest possible shot-to-shot variation that they don't shoot at targets anymore. They just shoot shot after shot through the chronograph, searching for a gun/pellet combination that never varies.

Consistent velocity is an important indicator of the state of an airgun's tune, but it's no guarantee of accuracy. Some very accurate pellets will vary a lot in velocity, while some consistent pellets are mediocre downrange. Still, a number is very compelling.

So, how consistent is a relatively inexpensive air rifle like the Sheridan? Whadda ya think? Ten shots within a 30 f.p.s. spread? 20? 10? Well, before we go try it, there's another aspect to this. Because the Sheridan is a multi-pump, it can shoot on any number of pump strokes between three and eight. So, will the consistency vary with the number of strokes?

And, there's something else. Some guys say that how fast or slow you pump the gun makes a difference in the consistency. So, we have to explore that, too! Didn't I tell you this was going to be fun?

Shot-to-shot consistency with different numbers of strokes
There is no difference in consistency at three pumps all the way up to eight pumps. Shooting Crosman Premiers, my Blue Streak never varied by more than 10 f.p.s. from the fastest shot to the slowest in a string of 10, regardless of how many pump strokes were used. There was a best string on five pumps that varied just five f.p.s.; but the other strings were so tight that, if I tried enough times, I would get the same results on all the numbers of pump strokes.

Even this old Silver Steak from the 1950s is extremely consistent, shot to shot.

I tried this test again with an old Silver Streak I have. Though that gun varied by as much as 12 f.p.s. in one of the strings, it also exhibited the same consistency regardless of the number of pump strokes

Fast pumping vs. slow
This was another walk in the park! The Blue Streak averaged 1 f.p.s. faster when pumped as rapidly as possible, as opposed to taking five seconds to complete each pump stroke. I didn't test this at every number of strokes - but at 3, 5 and 8, it stayed the same.

Are you surprised?
It's been my experience that multi-pump pneumatics are among the most consistent airguns, as far as velocity is concerned. Single-strokes are just as consistent; of course, they're pneumatics, too. Only one spring airgun I know of can equal this performance every time, and that's the Daisy 499 BB gun - the world's most accurate BB gun. But as a class of guns, I have to give my vote to the multi-pumps for consistent velocity.

Try this experiment with your own multi-pumps and tell us what you learn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Air Shotguns, Part 5 - the Yewha

by B.B. Pelletier

Time for another installment in our continuing saga - "Air Shotguns." We last looked at the Vincent and the Paul, two American-made shotguns from early in the 20th century. Let's turn our attention to Korea and a much later time.

The Yewha 3-B Dynamite was an air shotgun that was imported in the 1980s - BY CHANCE!

Yewha 3-B Dynamite
If you were a Beeman customer during the 1970s, as I was, you were surprised one day to see a strange-looking airgun among the traditional German and English models. It looked large and crude, and the name - Yewha BBB Dynamite - was hardly what Beeman customers were used to. It was an air shotgun from Korea.

From the Blue Book of Airguns
What I'm about to tell you is documented in the Blue Book of Airguns Fifth Edition. The Beemans were working out of their house in San Anselmo, California, when they were approached by people claiming to be representatives of the Unification Church - known as "Moonies," after their leader, the Rev. Moon of Korea. They came to the Beeman's home and showed them their guns, including the .25-caliber air shotgun that Robert Beeman renamed the 3-B Dynamite.

South Koreans are forbidden to own firearms and must use airguns for hunting. They were using this shotgun to take ringnecked pheasants, and the salesman told Beeman that with a round lead ball, the gun could also take deer! Though it wasn't up to their usual standards of finish, Beeman bought 50 guns at $35 each. As the salesman was leaving, Dr. Beeman joked, "If you ever want to sell the rest of your guns at $10 apiece, I'll buy them." Eight months later, a truck arrived at their home in the evening with 300 more guns! They had taken the joke seriously and wanted their money RIGHT NOW!

150 pumps for the first shot!
The Yewha is similar to the Vincent and Paul, in that you pump it many (150) times before taking a shot. The Blue Book says 10 to 20 pumps, but that is only after the gun has first been filled. After it's full, each shot drains off about 10-20 pumps. If you replenish between shots, it will retain full power for every shot. Otherwise, you get a number of shots with decreasing power. There's a flange on the end of the pump rod for your foot, and the gun itself becomes the pump handle.

Some American owners have converted their guns to precharged operations, but they have retained all the original parts, because the gun isn't worth much when it's all hacked up. This way they can charge it from a scuba tank and enjoy the gun without working so hard for every shot. I have also seen at least one converted to bulk CO2. That would have necessitated some changes to the valve, as well, if they wanted to retain the full functionality of the gun.

Plastic shotshells
The shotshells came with the gun. Like all air shotgun shells, they are open on both ends for the air to pass through. They hold just a pinch of shot, but it must be enough to get the job done because hunters do well with the gun in Korea. I would guess they shoot birds on the roost - not in flight.

Plenty of power
A fully charged gun gives velocities of 1,000 f.p.s.
That's similar to the Fire 201 shotgun I covered October 26. I don't know if the Yewha can drive as much shot as the Fire, but they are both .25 caliber, so it might.

What are they worth?
The scarcity of the gun in this country, plus the association with the Beeman name, conspire to drive the value much higher than the gun deserves on its own merits, I believe. I see Yewhas selling at airgun shows for $450 to $500, when they should fetch $250. The Farco shotgun has to struggle to break $350 in the box with all the accessories, but the Yewha seems to have a mystique that fascinates airgunners.

We are not finished with air shotguns, but I'm stretching this out so those who don't care about them will not become bored. Hang in there if you're interested - there's more to come!

Monday, December 19, 2005

BSA Tech Star - a great hunting rifle at a fabulous price!

by B.B. Pelletier

BSA's Tech Star is an airgun hunter's dream!

Things are always changing at Pyramyd Air, and today I would like to look at a gun that has become a super buy - the BSA Tech Star.

Small gun packs a punch!
The Tech Star was designed to be a less expensive option for those who wanted a BSA Hornet but were on a budget.
As the Tech Star was designed, however, it became a lot more. The Hornet was designed for the UK, where the limit for air rifles without a Firearms Certificate (FAC) is 12 foot-pounds. In the UK, no matter how much an air rifle costs, 12 foot-pounds is pretty much the limit if the owner doesn't want to go to the expense and hassle of obtaining an FAC. Among other things, one of the FAC requirements is a gun safe bolted to the structure of your house, which usually means the studs. So almost everyone has a 12 foot-pound gun.

But, the Tech Star was designed specifically for the United States, where we are blessed with no power restrictions. It looks like a Hornet but has a beech stock instead of walnut. It produces 32 to 38 foot-pounds, though mine works best at about 30 to 35. I like shooting Beeman Kodiak pellets, which I find very accurate. With the heavier Eun Jin pellets, you can boost the energy to the limit - and this gun has the power to handle them fine. However, I just like Kodiaks for their accuracy.

Made for covert hunting!
The real reason to get a Tech Star is its covert hunting feature. The rifle loads with a bolt that pops open by depressing a latch. All the bolt does is load the rifle. The rifle is cocked by pressing straight back on a large round button in front of the forearm! This was made for hunters to sit or lie in a blind with an uncocked but loaded gun. They could then cock the gun without scaring the game by simply pressing back the cocking button. It's quite possible to be nearly silent with this design, and that can save a lot of missed opportunities.

If you weren't able to take the shot, it's also possible to uncock the gun by holding in on the button and pulling the trigger. You can then ride the hammer and striker spring down to the uncocked position. If you are hunter, you'll know the value of these features.

Talk about VALUE!
The REAL story today, is the price. Pyramyd Air has this rifle on sale at $369.75! That's $90 LESS than a Talon from AirForce! And, you're getting a real BSA barrel with this rifle, which is as accurate as a Lothar Walther (in case you didn't know). The top British makers use BSA barrels on their best rifles because BSA has a splendid reputation for accuracy.

Small reservoir - higher pressure
The Tech Star is set up to operate on 235 bar or about 3,500 psi. It will work at 3,000 psi, but you won't get as many shots as the rifle is rated for. The Hill pump is capable of reaching that pressure, as are some larger scuba tanks. I tell you this so you know up front how the rifle performs. It's a high-performance PCP in a very affordable package.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Remington Airmaster 77 - just right for Christmas!

A rifle that I have passed by for some time is the Remington Airmaster 77. It's pretty impressive when you hold it in your hands, and I think it represents a great value - especially when you take advantage of a deal Pyramyd Air is offering right now. More about that later!

Unusual looks!
This is a most unusual-looking air rifle. The stock and forearm are matte black plastic, and the receiver is matte black metal. The outer barrel is brushed nickel, which contrasts very nicely with the dark gun.

Nice open sights!
The gun comes with a scope, which I'll get to, but there is also a very nice set of open sights. The front is a fiber optic green bead, and the rear U-shaped notch fits it perfectly! Usually, there's a mismatch between front and rear with fiber optics, and I never know exactly where the bead should go when I sight. But, the sights on this Remington line up very naturally! The rear sight adjusts in both directions.

It shoots BBs and pellets!
Although the barrel is rifled steel, this gun is built to take BOTH BBs and pellets. The BBs are loaded 200 at a time through a port in the grip cap. Then, you load a smaller spring-loaded magazine on the left side of the receiver by inverting the gun and transferring BBs by gravity. DO NOT dump pellets into the BB reservoir - they will only jam the mechanism.

Pellets are loaded one at a time through a loading port on the right side of the receiver. It opens when you pull the bolt back to cock the gun. The port is made to accommodate your fingers, and I find this to be an easy gun to load. It makes little difference to the firing rate whether you choose a BB or a pellet. BBs are simply a little easier because they're stored inside the gun for automatic loading, while the pellets have to be inserted through the port. The rifle must have NO BBs in it when you want to shoot pellets. I would personally use the Airmaster 77 as a pellet rifle and forget the BBs.

Nicely sized!
Though this rifle is probably intended for a younger shooter, it is sized for an adult. The weight of 4-3/4 lbs. and the thick, solid-feeling stock and forearm make it feel substantial. A while back, I suggested guns to put behind the door or out in the shed for pest control. I'd like to add this one to the list as long as we aren't going after squirrels and rabbits. For grackles, starlings, pigeons, sparrows, and rats, this would be potent medicine!

It comes with a scope
The rifle is sold as a kit, which includes a 4x scope that has its own mounts. It's not a premium airgun scope by any means, but if you would like to try a scoped airgun, there aren't many priced like this. Since the mounts are on the scope when it comes, all you need to do is slide the ring bases on the receiver dovetails, tighten two screws and your rifle is scoped!

This is a Remington!
Crosman makes the rifle, but Remington puts their name on it. That will be important to collectors in the future, so hang on to that box and all the stuff inside.

It's a multi-pump pneumatic
You can put up to 10 pumps in the Airmaster, which means you can control how hard it shoots. For indoor target practice, three pumps are sufficient. For popping grackles at 25-30 yards, I'd take it up to the limit. Remington advertises a velocity of 725 f.p.s. with a 7.9-grain .177 lead pellet, which is a little faster than the Beeman R7. That is serious power, so this gun is to be taken seriously, by which I mean that you can use it for light hunting and pest elimination. The ability to vary the power by the number of pumps is a very handy feature.

And the REALLY good news...
If you'd like to save a bundle on one of these rifles and don't mind a remanufactured gun, Pyramyd is selling them for just $49.95! They include the scope and rings at that price, but not the BBs, pellets, targets or safety goggles. A remanufactured gun has been sent back to Crosman's repair department and repaired to shoot like new. Many times, however, the reason for the return wasn't the gun's fault - the customers simply return them, and company sends all of them back to Crosman. So, you could end up with a peach of an airgun for very little money. Other than getting a used gun, I don't know where there's another deal like this anywhere at this time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Crosman 101 multi-pump pneumatic

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman's old model 101 was a very successful pneumatic.

When Crosman began making air rifles in 1923, they quickly settled on an underlever design that was to be in the inventory for the next 25+ years. From 1925 into the early 1950s, the Crosman .22 caliber model 101 or "Silent," as it's sometimes called in advertising, was a popular pump rifle.

No model number on the gun
The 101 is a strange bird. First...there is no model designation on the gun. Second...because most parts interchange, you will find all sorts of parts variations on the guns today. Finding an original 101 is as hard as finding an original Garand rifle from World War II. And, it has the same problem: How can you prove that it's original?

The earliest successful underlever design
Today, we take the underlever pump for granted, but until Crosman invented it in 1924, people pumped their guns with a bicycle pump rod that extended from the front of the gun. Even Crosman's first model is a front pumper. The second model introduced the underlever that's been the standard ever since. It's so "right" that when companies like Daystate and Sharp fiddle with it by using a sidelever, they only do themselves harm. Apparently, the underlever is the one right way to pump an airgun!

The receiver looks vintage, which it is, of course. Notice that the cocking knob is unscrewed several turns to take pressure off the valve. The rifle can store air indefinitely this way.

Cocking and loading are separate
One interesting quirk of the 101 is that the bolt only opens the breech to accept the pellet. To cock the rifle, a separate cocking knob must be pulled back. The gun must be cocked or it will not accept a pump - unless you follow this tip: Partly unscrew the cocking knob so the mainspring is not pressing against the exhaust valve, and you can pump the gun uncocked. This trick is also good for leaving two pumps of air in the gun between shooting sessions to keep the valve free from dirt. After you ride the cocking handle down - following the two pumps of air, unscrew the knob and the gun will remain sealed for years!

Several subtle design changes
The guns may have looked the same, but they didn't have the same valves. The early valves were known as troublemakers, and repair stations quickly replaced them as soon as a better design became available. Barrels and pump tubes can be made of either brass or steel. Because of the ease of parts swapping, there is no sure way to know when one type ended and another began. Rear sights vary a lot, and the newest ones are the best, in a strange twist of fate. They are all aperture-type, which makes for greater precision.

The "clickless" rubber pump handle
In the 1940s, Crosman introduced a pump handle that was supposed to not click when it banged against the pump tube. As this material dried out over the years, it became as hard as any hardwood and clicks just as loud! The rubber pump handle is an ugly red color that really looks sad on an otherwise attractive airgun.

They also made a .177
The .177 version, called the model 100, was made from 1940 to 1950 and is rarer than the 101, usually fetching about 20 to 50 percent more money. A nice 101 shooter today brings $80 to $100 at an airgun show, while a 100 will often bring $125 to $150.

The gun shown here didn't hold air when I bought it for $50 at an airgun show. I sent it to Dave Gunter, who resealed it and made the valve more efficient and gave me more velocity. I get about 710 f.p.s. with .22 Premiers on eight pumps. That's cookin' for a vintage multi-pump!

I still shoot my rifle more than many of my other pellet guns. Perhaps that says it best - this is one sweet air rifle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Walther's Dominator does it with style!

by B.B. Pelletier

Let's go into the high-rent district to have a look at an American-designed German field target gun - the Walther Dominator!

Based on a 10-meter target rifle
The Dominator is based on Walther's 300 Alu Tec target rifle. The 300 Alu was the first production air rifle to use air pressurized at 300 bar, which is 4,350 psi and change. It has a regulator to lower the firing pressure to a more managable figure (probably around 2,000 psi), so what you get with 300 bar is a lot more shots. If you can't fill it that high, the rifle will still work on 200 bar, but there are fewer shots.

The Dominator presented some challenges to the German part of the team that designed it. They thought it would be easy to convert their valve to shoot faster with heavier pellets, but that part of it took them nearly one full year. In the end, they admitted they had underestimated the amount of air needed to push a .177 10.6-grain pellet to 900 f.p.s. They were so used to pushing 8.5-grain pellets to 575 f.p.s. that this new task took them to a whole new level of design!

They also discovered another lesson that other PCP airgun makers already knew - you have to have a longer barrel to get more velocity from a PCP! They wasted six months trying to get the standard 10-meter barrel to perform before they finally increased the barrel length. When they did, wonderful things began to happen! The gun settled down and started shooting very tight groups. Velocity was much more consistent, and the gun became more manageable.

The scope is new, too!
The U.S. part of the design team specified a long scope rail and a 10-40x variable-power scope. The Germans were surprised that anyone would want such power, but when the guns began selling here in the U.S., most of them went out the door with scopes. The Germans started shooting long-range groups with the new gun and were shocked to see 10 pellets going into 3/4" groups - and sometimes smaller! - at 50 meters. That kind of performance really lit a fire under the Walther design team. Walther's scope retails for $1,085, which is way out of profile for the features it offers. A similar scope made by the same factory with identical features sells for $600. But, if you buy a Dominator, you will be well-served by the Leapers 6-24x50, and you'll save hundreds.

The rifle was tested with both 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers and H&N Baracudas, which are also sold as Beeman Kodiaks in the U.S. The Kodiak/Baracudas performed about 20 percent better than the Premiers in those tests.

The Germans learned quickly
Soon after the Dominator hit the streets, German shooters started popping up in world-class field target competition. There had been a few of them before then, but the Dominator brought them out in force. They still had to contend with the British champions, though, and everybody who shoots against them has to work hard just to keep up.

At least one other 10-meter target rifle maker now makes a field target version of their gun, conveniently standing on Walther's shoulders to see how it's done. Walther was first, though, and the Dominator remains at the pinnacle of field target rifles. If you've had thoughts about getting into the sport, this is a rifle that can take you to the world championships right out of the box!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Pellet head sizes

by B.B. Pelletier

Late last week we received this question: Pyramyd lists 2 JSB Exacts in .22, 5.51mm and 5.52mm. Why? High power gun vs low power gun?

Today, I'd like to discuss the reason for different pellet head sizes.

What does a pellet head do?
A diabolo pellet only touches the bore in two spots - at the head and again at the tail. The tail is sized much larger than bore size to seal the compressed air or gas behind the pellet. But, the nose doesn't seal anything. It acts as a guide for the pellet. It can either ride the bore, which is the top of the rifling lands, or it can ride the grooves, themselves. If a pellet is marked by rifling on the nose when run through the barrel with a rod, it is riding the grooves, which is the most common way.

This illustration of a typical diabolo pellet shows how the head and skirt touch the bore, while the rest of the surface does not. This is a low-friction projectile. The flare at the base of the skirt has been exaggerated for this illustration.

Pellets exert less friction than bullets because they touch only the barrel in these two areas. They can get away with so little contact because the gas or compressed air that pushes them is at much lower pressure than the gasses created by burning gunpowder.

Pellet skirts are sized by the breech.
When a pellet is loaded into the barrel, the skirt is sized down to the bore size as it is pushed into the breech. If you examine the skirt of any diabolo, you'll notice that it is thinnest at the very end. Many pellets even have sloped walls at the ends of their skirts to further reduce the amount of lead that has to be squeezed down. Not only is the skirt being sized at loading, the rifling is also cutting notches in the side of the pellet - usually at both the head and the skirt. All of this causes resistance, making it harder to push the pellet into the bore.

Beeman Kodiak at left has rifling marks on both the nose and the skirt. The skirt is flattened where it was sized by entering the breech. Solid "pellet" at right had to be totally engraved by the rifling - it was MUCH harder to load.

Solid pellets load hard!
Those of you who have shot the so-called "solid pellets," which are actually bullets in disguise, know how hard it is to get them started in the bore! That's because the rifling has to engrave the entire length of the pellet - not just the head and skirt of a diabolo. What you are actually doing is muzzleloading your gun at the breech and using your thumb instead of a short starter to start the pellet in the bore. Ouch!

What do you do with pellets that come in different nose sizes?
You shoot them in your airgun to see which size is more accurate. The size has nothing to do with the gun's power level. Most likely, one size head will outshoot all the others in a given gun, though you may have to test at long ranges, beyond 30 yards. When you find a head size that works, chances are the same head size will work with every kind of pellet in that gun. To see an example of pellets sold by head size, go to the JSB Exact pellets and look at the 5.51mm and 5.52mm head sizes.

Head sizes are most popular and the most common in target pellets. Ten-meter target shooters go through a lot to determine which head size and even which lot number of pellet is best in their guns, then they buy 30,000 to 100,000 pellets at one time. It's not unusual for them to go through 30,000 pellets in a single year. If you look at the bottom of a tin of high-quality target pellets, chances are good it will have a sticker with the head size.

Does size matter?
It matters to those who are in search of ultimate accuracy for a given airgun. If thousandths of an inch matter, then head sizes do too. For most of us - especially those shooting sporting airguns, head size issue is unimportant.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What is trigger-pull and why do we care?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today's post answers a question from last week. Matt asks:

"Can you explain trigger pull and how the number of pounds is come to? I've seen different guns listed as low as 2lbs and as high as 12lbs, but it doesn't mean anything to me.

Trigger-pull is a measure of force
The force exerted on the trigger to get the sear to release, or (in some airguns) to get the valve to open, is called trigger-pull. Popular belief says the lightest trigger-pull possible is the best, but that's not always true.

The bottom line is control of the gun
The more you can determine exactly when a gun will fire, the better your chances of hitting the target. That's not all that's involved, of course, but controlling the moment of firing is very important. Less-experienced shooters are better off being surprised when the gun goes off. That way, they won't flinch involuntarily just before sear release. As a shooter gains experience with a certain gun, he will begin to notice when it's ready to fire, and this will refine into a positive knowledge of EXACTLY when the gun is about to fire. When you know this, your accuracy improves measurably.

A trigger that's too light is dangerous!
I have seen shooters fire a gun just by picking it up!
Their fingers automatically seek the trigger, and they're used to some resistance before release, so a true "hair trigger" that lets go at 10 grams of resistance is beyond their experience. Some can't feel the trigger blade on their fingertip before the gun fires.

A heavy trigger can work very well
I have an 1875 trapdoor Springfield rifle with a 5 lb. trigger-pull. Compared to the triggers found in modern PCP air rifles, that's way too heavy. Yet, this trigger poses no problem for perfect accuracy. Why? Because I know exactly when it's going to release. This is one of the most predictable triggers I own. Conversely, I have a Swiss Schmidt-Rubin rifle with a trigger-pull of less than a pound that I haven't gotten used to yet. That rifle is much harder to shoot well.

Some PCP triggers are light but they don't have a definite release point, so you are always guessing when the gun is going to fire. Others release the same, time after time. They're the ones you can usually shoot the best. In general, I've found Daystate triggers to be very vague and ambiguous. They're light, but not crisp. Falcon triggers are usually very crisp and repeatable. Of course, Falcon just changed hands this year, so it remains to be seen whether the new triggers will be as good.

Trigger creep can throw you off
The Asian rifles from Sam Yang often have a lot of creep in the trigger. Creep is movement in the loaded (hard-to-pull) stage of the trigger. This can be the first stage in a single-stage trigger or the second stage in a two-stage trigger. I find Shin Sung triggers to be better, but they also have some creep. AirForce triggers usually have a small amount of creep in the second stage, but it is very predictable, so it doesn't affect the pull.

Top-grade target guns always have two-stage triggers with zero creep in the second stage. Second-tier target guns usually have some creep. The Drulov DU-10 target pistol has a wonderful trigger, but there is always a small bit of creep in it.

How is trigger-pull measured?
Trigger-pull is measured either by a resistance gauge or by actual weights.
In formal air pistol competition, where the minimum trigger-pull weight of 500 grams is specified in the rules, each gun is cocked and must pick up a weight of 500 grams (about 1.1 pounds) with the bar resting on the trigger. If it does that without firing, the officials don't care where the trigger breaks! Gun testers like me use resistance gauges to measure exactly where the trigger releases. It's not always at the same point on some triggers!

Pulling on the gauge slides a marker that comes to rest at the point where the tension is released (trigger fires the gun).

The RCBS trigger-pull gauge is a spring-resistance gauge that measures pull in ounces up to 8 lbs.

A good sporting trigger breaks between 2 lbs. and 5 lbs. It breaks at the same weight every time. A good target trigger for benchrest shooting can be as light at 10 grams. For target shooting, where the shooter holds the gun, a 1-lb. pull is pretty light, though 10-meter air rifle target shooters often go down to 40 or 50 grams or so.

Trigger-pull weight is very personal, so every shooter must determine what is best for himself. As the shooter gains experience, however, he will learn how to adapt to a trigger-pull of almost any weight.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Walther CP99 Compact - Walther's OTHER master-blaster!

by B.B. Pelletier

I really enjoy the realism Walther puts into their PPK/S BB pistol. It uses CO2 to both shoot the BB and shove the slide back in a realistic blowback with every shot! I actually went out and bought a Walther PPK/S in .22 long rifle caliber just because I liked the BB pistol so much! If you haven't read my report on it, it's Blast away with a real Walther PPK/S!

Walther makes ANOTHER master-blaster!
There's a second BB pistol in the Walther lineup - the CP99 Compact. Now, there are a lot of similar pistols in the Walther line, and it's easy to become confused about the one you want. That's one reason I'm writing this posting. Most of Walther's CP99 pistols are pellet guns. The slide separates in two parts and the front pulls away from the rear, revealing an 8-shot circular clip inside.

The way to tell these guns apart is to read the descriptions to see if they use BBs or pellets. No Walther pistol will shoot both, so if the gun you are looking at takes pellets, it isn't the CP99 Compact. A second way to tell a pellet pistol is to look at the slide. If there's a vertical line in the slide marking where it separates, it's a pellet pistol.

Walther's CP99 Compact has a one-piece slide that blows back with every shot.

It's a modern PPK/S
The PPK was Walther's idea of a pocket pistol in the days before World War II. It was wonderful for its time and it's still a viable pistol today, but ergonomics have advanced so far that now we can build them even better. The CP99 is the air pistol version of Walther's P99, the gun that James Bond now carries. It fits in most adult hands even better than the PPK or the PPK/S (a longer-grip version of the PPK, made to satisfy U.S. importation "points" rulings after the Gun Control Act of 1968).

As the description says, this is now a favorite backup pistol for European tactical and law enforcement personnel. That's why, even though this is a compact, it has a Picatinny mount under the muzzle for a laser. You can see what that looks like by looking at the Walther CP99 Laser, which is a pellet pistol. The Compact, however, is too short to fit the current laser that Walther offers separately. Perhaps they will make a shorter one soon for this gun?

BB magazines
The CP99 Compact uses a 17-shot stick-type magazine instead of the 8-shot circular clips used by the pellet pistols. My experience with the PPK/S tells me there will be enough CO2 in a powerlet to run through at least four magazines before changing powerlets, so you might want to buy a few extras.

Pyramyd's Christmas sale!
Speaking of buying one, Pyramyd's Christmas sale email prompted this post in the first place. I have subscribed to the Pyramyd Air emails, and the most recent one gave all the great holiday sales they're offering. The CP99 Compact is selling for just $84.95! You'll note that's a lot less than the pellet pistols. And, this is the only one featuring realistic blowback with every shot.

Don't forget these!
If you get one, you'll need BBs and CO2 to operate it. Assuming it's going to be a present, a 25-pack of powerlets seems about right. There are smaller packs, but this one is a great deal. And, I'd get a nice pack of Crosman BBs to go with it.

Any way you look at it, the Walther CP99 Compact is one fine BB pistol. If you like realistic airguns, this is one to check out.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Diana 35: the big brother to the model 27

by B.B. Pelletier

Today's blog is for Ian, who was given a Diana model 35. He wasn't getting very good groups, so I gave him some tips on holding a spring gun when firing. I should have asked him what pellet he was using, because I suspect it's a major part of the problem. He's doing well now, but his last comment went like this:

"I'd be pleased if you could do a review on the Diana/Original Model 35, together with what velocity and ft/lbs to expect. Mine is the Original 35 built in 1968 in Germany and has the red recoil pad."

Diana's model 35 was one of the most powerful spring guns in the 1950s. It was made until 1987.

Former contender fades as airgun technology advances
When it was new, the Diana 35 was a powerful air rifle. It had a revolutionary trigger and was even set up to take a scope - sort of. But it remained in the inventory without change for nearly four decades and finally went out with a whimper as more powerful airguns passed it by.

It was powerful for its day, but you won't think that shooting a Crosman Premier in .22 caliber at an average of just 550 f.p.s. is much to talk about. The one I tested did a little better with RWS Meisterkugeln, which weigh 14.2 grains, sending them out at an average of 591 f.p.s. That's still only 11 foot-pounds; for a .22 spring rifle, that seems pretty tame by today's standards.

They were called by many names
Dianas were sold in the U.S. under many brand names, which confuses collectors. The Winchester 435 is really a Diana 35, but gun people believe it must be special because of the name. They were also known as Original 35, Peerless 35, Geco 35, Beeman 200 and Hy-Score 809 (I owned a Hy-Score 809 made in 1977.)

A big gun!
Unlike the handy Diana 27, the 35 is BIG! It weighs about eight pounds and is a man-sized gun. There are two main variations - the first built between 1953-1964 and the second between 1965-1987. The later version had a thicker stock, very slippery stamped checkering (the kind most shooters HATE) and was generally not as svelte as the earlier one.

My 35 cocked with 24 pounds of effort, which is light for this size airgun. After I lubricated the firing mechanism, that dropped to 19 pounds, though the gun's power remained exactly where it had been.

Lots of parts for a simple job. Diana's ball bearing trigger was a real sales item in the 1950s. It releases about the same as a standard lever-type trigger.

The ball bearing trigger
The 35 has Diana's ball bearing trigger, a simplified variation of it is still used today. It is not modular, so the airgunsmith has to know exactly what goes where and also needs a few tricks to get it back in the gun in the assembled state. Today's Diana triggers are more modular, though they still use three ball bearings to hold the piston.

A plain dovetail ramp with no provision for a scope stop. Hang a stop pin in front of the ramp to keep the rings from moving.

Made for a scope - maybe!
Shooters didn't scope airguns in the 1950s, but they started to in the '60s. Diana put a simple raised ramp on top of the receiver tube and let the owner guess how to mount the scope. If you scope one today, you need to hang some kind of scope stop pin over the front of this plain ramp to keep the scope mount from sliding backwards on the ramp.

The Diana 35 was an early attempt at building a powerful air rifle. Later guns of the same size and weight would have nearly twice the power, but they benefitted from the work that Diana had done for them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pellet profile - the JSB Exact domed diabolo

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I'd like to look at a pellet that many experienced shooters believe is the finest in the world - the JSB Exact domed diabolo.

Who is JSB?
The initials JSB stand for Josef Schulz Bohumin. Josef Schulz started the company in the city of Bohumin in 1992. A former sports shooter, he now trains and sponsors the Sports Shooting Club of Bohumin.

Bohumin is located in the Czech Republic, which has been known for gun-making for more than a century. The Czech city of Brno, second-largest city in the Czech Republic, is as famous as Birmingham or Springfield as an arms-making center.

It's important to know the name Bohumin because Pyramyd Air lists that name under the manufacturers listing on the main ammo page. If you want to find pellets by their maker, look for Bohumin, not JSB.

Why do shooters say they are the best?
They say that because in many airguns, if not most, a JSB will perform better than any other pellet. It won't always be the best, but a lot of the time it is. Whenever I have a new gun to test for accuracy, I try to use JSB Exact domed diabolos.

What makes them the best?
The shape of JSB pellets is good and traditional, but it's nothing other pellet makers haven't already tried. JSBs are made from pure lead, which slips through rifled barrels much better than a harder alloy - but many other types of pellets are also pure lead. I believe JSB pellets are so good because of the rigorous inspection they undergo before being packed.

Hand-sorting makes a better batch of pellets!
Clear back on March 10, I had a posting titled B.B.'s treasure chest - Sorting pellets for accuracy. In that post, I discussed how sorting pellets according to weight and visually examining them for defects is the champion's secret weapon. Pellet makers have done this before. The Chinese make a hand-sorted pellet that stands up to the finest target wadcutters anywhere. So, it comes as no surprise that hand-sorting works for Bohumin, too.

Doesn't hand-sorting add a lot of cost?
Of course! Take the hourly salary of the employee doing the inspection and multiply by a factor of three (for benefits and mandated personnel costs) and divide that figure by the number of pellets that person can sort each hour. Or, pay them by the number of pellets they sort, but watch out that they don't go so fast that they cancel any benefits gained from sorting. Either way, you're adding a lot of cost to the price of a pellet. A time will come when this level of attention will be too expensive for any manufacturer.

What about the other shapes they make?
I'm always talking about JSB Exact domed diabolos, but Bohumin makes lots of other pellets. Are they good, too? Yes, they are. The reason I concentrate on the domed pellet is because I'm usually discussing a sporting airgun. When we get into the world of target guns and pellets, Bohumin has a lot of stiff competition from H&N, RWS and some others. But, in the world of domed all-purpose pellets, I believe they are the clear winner - most of the time.

What about Crosman Premiers? How about Beeman Kodiaks?
For a full decade, Crosman Premiers were the undisputed world leader in domed pellets. Nothing could touch them, and I still find guns that shoot Premiers best of all. As for Beeman Kodiaks, they're pure lead, very heavy and among my top three picks for almost any pellet gun. I say "almost" because, as heavy as Kodiaks are in .177 and .22, they are only good in medium- to higher-powered airguns. In .22 caliber, JSBs are on the heavy side of medium weight. In .177 they are available in two different weights - standard and heavy.

I have recommended JSB pellets for several years - ever since I saw their clear accuracy advantage. They may not be the best pellet in your airgun, but they are worth a try. I buy multiple tins at a time, taking full advantage of Pyramyd Air's buy three, get the fourth tin free!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Long-range shooting with airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

Today's post applies to all airgun powerplants. It comes from a question we received yesterday:

I have a question that keeps bothering me. I was hoping that you can answer it for me. With a same gun, same power plant, different barrel (i.e. Diana 350 Magnum .177 and .22) and shoots pellets of same weight (i.e. .177 15 grain and .22 15 grain). Which caliber would shoot further?

That's a good question!
Assuming the same powerplant, will the pellets exit the muzzle at the same speed? I don't know. In all the years I have been reading about airguns, this is an experiment that I have never seen performed. I'm not sure it CAN be performed, because a 15-grain .177 pellet will be vastly different in shape than a 15-grain .22 pellet. That introduces bias, negating the results. The .177 pellet has to be MUCH longer in order to weigh that much, whereas the .22 pellet is just a standard medium weight for that caliber.

Unless the .177 pellet is designed expressly for this experiment, I think it might have so much surface area in contact with the bore that it would be slower than the .22 - but I can't prove it.

I can't answer this question
I'm not sure anyone can answer this question. It's like asking who would win a boxing match between Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson. You can argue the outcome for years and never solve the riddle. However, I think there is another unasked question at the root of today's question: What pellet is best suited for long-range shooting? That's one I can take a stab at!

Long-range performance of the diabolo pellet
The pellet shape takes its name from a juggling apparatus called a diabolo. That's dee-ab'u-low". (It's not diablo, which is Spanish for "devil"!) It's the thing jugglers balance on a string attached to two stick held in their hands.

The diabolo is a type of gyroscope that is balanced on a string held in the hands. Its pinched waist gave the name to the modern wasp-waisted pellet.

Author Sam Fadala has done extensive testing, demonstrating that a round lead ball loses approximately one-half its initial velocity in the first 100 yards. Because energy is based on the SQUARE of the velocity, that means about two-thirds of the energy has been lost at the same distance. The size of the ball makes absolutely no difference, so airguns are included in this discussion. You can read all about Fadala's testing in The Complete Blackpowder Handbook from DBI Books, Inc.

Now, diabolo (not diablo!) pellets slow down at an even greater rate than round balls because they have greater drag. So, a pellet that starts with 30 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle may retain only 12 foot-pounds at 100 yards. That number, by the way, is representative. I have not done actual testing to ascertain the true figure. And pellets, having variations in their ballistic coefficients from brand to brand, will vary just a little. But I believe they will all perform equal to or worse than a round ball, which loses about 50 percent of its initial velocity at 100 yards.

Learn to think like a buffalo hunter
The buffalo hunters of the 1870s killed millions of buffalo with blackpowder rifles that seldom exceeded 1,400 f.p.s. at the muzzle. The ranges at which they shot buffalo were often greater than 300 yards, because they tried not to spook the herd and therefore get more animals in a single "stand." A slow-moving bullet drops many YARDS by the time it travels that far, so the hunters learned to estimate distances very well, and they knew the trajectory of their bullets. They used ONE load of powder and ONE type of bullet, only. And that is my recommendation to all who want to hunt long range with airguns.

Quit trying to shoot your pellets flatter - it cannot be done and still retain accuracy. Instead, learn the trajectory of your most accurate pellet and practice only with it. Greater velocity is not the solution to long-range accuracy with a pellet rifle. Knowledge of the performance of your one best pellet is what you need. Stop experimenting and settle down with one pellet and one rifle. Then, and only then, will you become the long-range shot you really want to be.

To the person who posed today's question...if it were up to me, I would choose the .22 caliber Diana 350 Magnum over the .177.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Never get rid of a good shooter!

by B.B. Pelletier

On Friday, we received the following comment from Turtle:

"and... if you ever come across a low series # talon in your personal collection for sale...please by all means contact me. Had one w/ serial no below A00000050 I let go. And I kick my own butt several times a day about it.

Turtle got rid of an accurate rifle to take advantage of an upgrade. If you've been a shooter for many years, I bet you've done the same thing. I know I have.

It started with firearms
When I was young and dumb, I chanced to own a baby Bernardelli .25 automatic that was splendidly accurate. It was nothing more than luck that my particular gun would group five shots in an inch at 10 yards when others like it grouped five to ten times larger at the same range. The gun shot to the point of aim, which is remarkable when you consider the horrible fixed sights it had! I never should have sold that gun, but I figured I could always buy another if I wanted to.

Folks, there AREN'T ANY .25 automatics that shoot like that! Or, if there are, their owners are not as dumb as I was. They'll hold on to their guns!

An elephant rifle is a tack-driver, too!
The other gun I never should have sold was a .458 Winchester Magnum built on a 1903 Springfield action. I bought it at a gun show with the reloading dies and the bullet mold for a 550-grain lead bullet. The seller told me the gun was unbelievably accurate at 100 yards with a low-powered load, and I fell for it.

When I tried it exactly as the seller had indicated, son-of-a-gun if 10 lead bullets didn't go through the same small hole at 100 yards! The rifle really was accurate. A few years later, I convinced myself once more that I didn't need this fine shooter, so I let it go.

My early mistakes trained me for airguns
Although I've been shooting airguns for many decades, the experiences with these two firearms (and a few others I won't bore you with) taught me to not get rid of good shooters. As a result, I clung to my tuned TX 200 until my newer TX 200 Mark III proved just as accurate and had a better trigger. I did, however, surrender an accurate Hakim rifle, believing they were all that good, only to discover that perhaps that isn't true.

Not worth a lot, but I'll never sell this Crosman Mark I.

Beeman sold a lot of FWB 124s. This one is mine.

My "never sell" airguns
I own many airguns, and among them are a few that will never be sold. My Crosman Mark I is one of the finest air pistols I have ever shot. It is deadly accurate, and, though I know that all Mark Is are supposed to be just as good, I'll hang onto this one. I have a Beeman P1 pistol that I feel the same way about. I can shoot better with this pistol, than with some target .22 rimfires at 50 feet. I have a Beeman FWB 124 rifle with an early San Anselmo address (Beeman was working out of his house at the time) that will stay with me. I got rid of the first 124 I bought, and I won't repeat the mistake.

This old Webley Senior is a comfortable airgun

Finally, I have an old pre-war Webley Senior pistol that I will never part with. It isn't worth that much, and it's not even that accurate, but it's one of the smoothest airguns I own and I'll keep it just for that reason.

My saddest sales
Years ago I was forced to part with a Whiscombe JW 75 rifle that had all four barrels. I know who owns it but he won't sell it. I also had to sell an early Sheridan Supergrade in very good condition. Both these guns were very prized but a brief economic setback required their sale. Thank God I had them to sell!

The moral of this story: when you find a good-shooting gun - be it a firearm or an airgun, hang on to it! No two guns are the same, despite being made one right after the other. If the gun is accurate or if you love it for any reason, that's cause enough to hold onto it!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Like to be an airgun collector?

by B.B. Pelletier

When I was young, I was interested in old firearms, but all the articles written about them said I had been born 30-50 years too late. All the real deals were long gone by the 1950s. As an adult, I became interested in collectible airguns, and it looked like the same thing had happened! Then, I paid greater attention to the airgun market and, son of a gun, if things didn't get MUCH better! Today, I'll share how it works.

Starting out as a collector
Rule No. 1: Keep your eyes in your head and be realistic.
That Sheridan Supergrade you want, used to cost $300 20 years ago, but now you can't touch it for less than $700. Don't fret, but also don't cash in your life insurance to get that gun. Instead, do what I do - use...

The stepping stone approach
You're probably not going to luck into a Sheridan Supergrade for $300. But it could happen. So always be prepared if it does (always have quick access to some cash) but don't hold your breath. Instead, look for targets of opportunity.

Say you have three pawn shops, two flea markets and an antique mall that you visit. One day you spot a strange-looking Daisy BB gun in one of those places. If it was a Red Ryder, it would be overpriced from the git-go, but this one is an 1894 Texas Ranger commemorative new in the box. The price tag says $100 because the gun is so nice. You know Daisy hasn't made the old-style 1894 since 1996, and some of the commemoratives are worth some cash. You dicker with the dealer and wind up with the gun for $75. You also bought some other stuff, so he was inclined to be softer on his price and you talked a good line. The other stuff sold for what you had in it, so this gun cost you $75.

My Daisy 1894 Texas Ranger commemorative BB gun was made in 1973-74, yet it's worth more than a like-new original 1940 Red Ryder!

The receiver is colored to look like case hardening and has a Texas Ranger medallion.

Rushing home, you turn to the Blue Book of Airguns, 5th Edition and discover that your new/old Daisy is the rarest one ever made and worth $600! Sound impossible? Well, I did that exact thing not six months ago. I wasn't looking for that particular airgun, but I knew from the Blue Book what things should cost. Now I have $600 (or more!) toward that Supergrade, if that's what I want.

Story No. 2 - not as fast
That was a wonderful story and it did happen, but it's not what normally happens.
Usually, I'll spot a Crosman 130 pistol for $20 in an antique dealer's booth. My wife actually found the one I'm referring to, and you read about it on September 19 in the posting Another oldie - Crosman 130. It cost me another $37 to get it sealed, and I could sell my $57 gun for $80 on one of the gun auction sites. Or, I could've gotten lucky and a shot of Crosman Pellgunoil might have fixed it - and I would have saved $37. If I watch my hot spots regularly, I'll find an average of one gun a month like that.

How to go broke - quickly!
Gun collectors know that there is NO money in Winchester commemoratives. They avoid them like the plague. The same is true for every commemorative airgun that has no top limit on the number produced. Beeman commemorative nickelplated rifles and RWS commemorative rifles are an example of this. They aren't worth a penny more than the same model in plain clothes. On the other hand, the Daisy Christmas Story Red Ryder that sold for about $60 in 1986 is now worth over $350!

The name of this gun is "opportunity," and it's knocking RIGHT NOW!

Here is a gun that will make you money!
Right now, on Pyramyd Air's website, there is a Crosman 760 commemorative. Crosman only produced 1,500 of these to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 760, and Pyramyd Air has it listed for ten dollars UNDER the suggested retail! Guys - I can joke with you and I can scold you, but I can't buy your guns for you. If you want to get into airgun collecting, BUY THIS GUN RIGHT NOW! In five years, it will be worth $125. In 10 years...who knows? When you're as old and feeble as I am, you will have a treasured story about the "good old days," when you could still get incredible bargains in collectible airguns.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Single-shot vs. repeating air rifle: Which way to go?

by B.B. Pelletier

Some straight talk about what has recently become a controversy among airgunners - the single-shot rifle versus the repeater.

A single-shot rifle has no trouble with pellet shapes. A single-shot usually lets you insert the pellet directly into the breech. On guns with bolts, you have to rely on a bolt probe to seat the pellet for you. Many shooters feel that pellet seating is one of the keys to best accuracy. They seat to a certain depth that's usually controlled in some positive way, plus they can inspect the pellet before it enters the bore

I'm not just talking about breakbarrel spring guns, either. Many of the top precharged rifles are still single-shots, though the trend for new guns is definitely toward repeaters. All of the top field target champions are shooting single-shot rifles, and no Olympic 10-meter repeating target rifles are even made. Yes, there are a few five-shot biathlon rifles, but that sport is about speed rather than precision.

Why do all the champions go single-shot?
I think they believe that the more control they exercise over their ammunition before it is shot, the better their chances of winning. A repeating mechanism has to move the pellets to the breech somehow, and that movement opens up the possibility for damage. I know that's how I feel.

The case for hunting with a single-shot
Those who hunt with single-shot rifles often say, "I only have one shot, so I have to make it count." I think that's a cop-out. A hunter can always use a second shot. When I hunt, I want a repeater. When I shoot for absolute precision, I'll take a single--shot.

A repeater gives you backup shots. That is the biggest benefit I can think of. In some cases, you don't lose much accuracy. Take the Career 707, for example. It has a linear magazine for the pellets, so pointed pellets are out because each would stick in the skirt of the pellet in front of it. However, that's no great loss. The Career can handle domed pellets fine, and the most accurate ones in .22 caliber are JSB Exacts, Crosman Premiers and Beeman Kodiaks - all of which feed fine in the Career 707.

Repeaters with circular clips such as the FX 2000 can use pellets with all different shapes, but the pellets are limited in length by the thickness of the clip. As long as you choose a reasonably sized (weight) pellet, this doesn't present a problem. When you try to shove a 28-grain Eun Jin into one of them, it's too long!

The repeater lets you carry extra loaded magazines
This is an advantage for hunters. They can load many magazines and put them in a pocket for the hunt. No fumbling with a pellet tin or a loose pouch in the middle of an important hunt.

Which is best: single-shot or repeater?
Unless you're going for the absolute ultimate in precision, a repeater will be as accurate as you need, so don't let my prejudices sway you. I own several of them, and the ones I have are very accurate. But, a nice single-shot is still a good air rifle. It's a little more flexible when it comes to ammo choices, and it can cost less money. The choice is yours, because both types of air rifles have a lot going for them.