Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shooting AT animals with airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

I have been asked many times to write about the best airgun to chase animals. Today, I will answer that question in detail. The specific question to which I'm responding asked, "How about a recommendation for the novice user looking to shoot squirrels, chase seagulls and geese from a dock on a waterfront property?"

Airguns are not for discipline!
It only takes about 300 f.p.s. for a small projectile to break the skin and penetrate the flesh of a human. Animals will vary from that to a small extent, with smaller animals being somewhat thinner-skinned than humans. A pellet or BB from even a weak airgun can cause a wound that the animal cannot treat. If the wound becomes infected, the animal will suffer and may even die in extreme cases. If the animal you injure is a family pet, you might be liable for veterinary costs, damages and certain misdemeanor charges for discharging an airgun within the city limits. My advice is to never shoot an animal with an airgun unless you intend to kill it.

What does it take to kill pests?
The question seems to imply killing squirrels, so I thought I would address that. Some animals are easy to kill, while others are tougher than you can imagine. The squirrel is in the latter category. While squirrels are thin-skinned, they seem to take a lot of abuse. That's why I recommend head shots with at least 12 foot-pounds on target and .22 caliber for them. Rats, on the other hand, die pretty quickly and a good body shot in the heart area will take them. The huge roof and barn rats are a whole different matter. Shoot them with a gun that can take a woodchuck!

On last thing about shooting rats. Try to dispose of the carcasses if you can. If you don't, you'll be providing a fancy meal for the rats you didn't see. Carry large plastic bags and insert your hand through the bag (inside-out) to grab the rat's tail. Then you can pull it into the bag without touching it.

Birds are very tough, especially large birds. Crows, seagulls and geese can take as much punishment as a woodchuck, so shoot them with a gun that has at least 20 foot-pounds at the muzzle and don't stretch out too far. Pigeons are much easier to kill, as are starlings, grackles and some other small pest birds.

Songbirds are protected just about everywhere, as are buzzards, all raptors and all species of vultures. Many other birds and other animals may be protected in your area, so check with your local fish and game department before deciding that a particular animal is a pest. In Rapid City, South Dakota, for example, deer wander into town and may eat your flowers and kill your family dog but you can't legally do a thing about it.

Poisonous snakes
Here is a trick I learned while traveling in rattlesnake country. If you point the muzzle of a gun at a snake and he sees it, he will align his head with the open muzzle of the gun! The first time I did that, I shot a rattler with a .22 revolver from 15 feet away! I couldn't believe how well I had shot until it dawned on me that the snake was more responsible for the shot than I was. Since then I have made many astounding shots on poisonous snakes with this trick. A warning, however! Don't try it on aggressive snakes such as water moccasins, or they're liable to charge you before you can get off a shot! If you do decide to use an airgun for this, make sure it's a powerful one! I have used a .22-caliber Beeman R1 on rattlers out to 15 feet.

Pest shooting is one of the ideal applications for an airgun, as long as you understand what you're doing. Don't try to "discipline" the animal. Either kill it outright or find some other way to shoo it away.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Logun Penetrators

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of our readers have said they've had good luck with the Logun Penetrator pellet, so I thought I would give them a try. I'm always open for a good pellet. I had them in .22 caliber in both 16 grain and 20.5 grain weights.

Logun Penetrators are lead-free, which usually raises a red flag with me. Over the years I have tested a great many lead-free pellets and usually found their accuracy wanting. The best were okay, but for real hair-splitting accuracy I have always found that pure lead pellets are tops. In fact, the most accurate .22 caliber pellet I've ever used is the 15.9-grain JSB Exact domed diabolo. For consistency from one gun to another, JSBs are the best - hands down!

Both Loguns are a modified diabolo shape. The domed head tapers to a very straight and long waist, then flares back out at the tail. It's a unique shape that won't be confused with any other pellet.

The Logun Penetrator has a different shape! It's a diabolo, but a very distinctive one. This is the .22-caliber 20.5-grain pellet.

AirForce Condor was the test bed
To test a pellet, you need an airgun of proven accuracy. I have several to choose from, but when the test is in .22 caliber I find myself picking up either an AirForce Talon SS or a Condor more often than not. One reason is because there is no repeating mechanism to get in my way. I can load the pellets directly into the barrel, which produces the best accuracy with any pellet. Another reason is the huge number of shots I get from the removable air tank. I can take a spare tank or two to the range and never have to bother with a scuba tank.

Because the Condor has a power adjustment wheel, I don't have to run it wide open. The two Logun Penetrators are medium and heavy weight, but in a Condor they are still too light to crack the throttle open all the way. I started the test with the 16-grain Penetrator pellet, which I sighted in at 20 yards before moving out to my 50-yard target. Three pellets got me on paper at 20 yards and I shifted to the for target after that. Group after group at 50 yards went into 1.5 to 2 inches for five shots. I tried a number of different techniques, but the groups stayed the same. The best group with the 16-grain pellet was 1.25-inches, and I have to call it luck because I was never able to repeat it. I shot at power settings 4, 8 and 12 and the groups did not change size. I sighted through an AirForce 4 to 16-power scope mounted on B-Square ultra-high adjustable rings.

20.5-grain pellet
I then switched to the Logun Penetrator in the 20.5-grain weight. The first group at 50 yards printed about 4 inches low but measured just over one inch! Things were looking up. The second group measure about one inch and then things improved considerably. The third group was 3/4-inch and I knew I was on to something. One remarkable group doesn't mean much but a string of them is a good indication that you have an accurate pellet. I was shooting on power setting 8 with should shove a pellet this weight out the spout in the mid 900s, or so.

Once you get dialed-in with a PCP and a good pellet, it's like eating peanuts - you just can't stop. Group after group was in the 3/4 to one-inch size and then I got lucky. I was rewarded with a five shot group measuring just 0.406-inches! Those don't happen often, but the way these pellets were performing, this was the sort of day for it. I tried to repeat that group and got a couple in the 0.600 range but no others under a half-inch.

Using a test standard
After I was satisfied that the 20.5-grain Penetrator was thoroughly tested, I shot two more groups - with JSB Exacts. I know how good they are, so I'm establishing that the rifle is shooting well if I get good groups with them. The two groups measured 0.750-inch and 0.615-inch. No doubt about it - the Condor was shooting well that day!

The 20.5-grain .22-caliber Logun Penetrator works very well in a PCP at about 40 foot-pounds. It's very accurate and repeatable (holds its zero well). The Condor has a 24-inch Lothar Walther barrel, and I would expect this pellet to do as well in other PCPs with premium barrels.

I did not test the penetration ability, which is a main claim of this pellet. However, nothing else matters unless the pellet is accurate, and the Logun Penetrator 20.5-grain certainly is.

The 16-grain Penetrator did well in the test, though it did not perform to the same level as the heavier pellet. You should make no assumptions about its performance, except the obvious fact that it is not the best pellet for the Condor when it's operating in the 20 to 40 foot-pound range.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Gamo PT-80

by B.B. Pelletier

The Pellet Master requested a post on the Gamo PT-80 CO2 pistol. I said I would check to see whether I had ever tested one and, by golly, I had. So here's your post.

General description
The PT-80 is an 8-shot CO2 revolver that looks like a semiauto pistol. The slide opens to gain access to the rotary clip hidden inside. The gun is the size of a traditional .380/9mm pocket pistol and feels good in the hand. The rear sight adjusts for windage only and the sighting system consists of three white dots - one in front and two in the rear. This kind of system is not good for paper targets but it does align rapidly on action targets. That makes the PT-80 a fun gun and a plinker.

The sights have one dot in front and two in the rear. Align them on target and shoot!

The front of the slide flips up to gain access to the clip.

The gun fires in either the single-action or double-action modes. For single-action shooting, cock the hammer before each shot. In the double-action mode, each pull of the trigger fires the gun. Like all CO2 pistols that shoot in both modes, the gun is more powerful in the single-action mode.

Shooting single-action (cocking the hammer for every shot) and allowing the gun to rest for 15 seconds between shots to warm up again, I averaged 345 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys and 334 f.p.s. with Gamo Match pellets. This is about what can be expected from a CO2 pistol with a 4" barrel. In double-action, also pausing between shots, the Hobbys were 318 and the Gamo Match were 310.

Gamo says the gun is good for 80 full-power shots, which I would agree with - providing you do not shoot fast and let the gun warm up between shots. If you shoot fast, the CO2 chills the gun's action, causing more CO2 to be used for every shot. A cold gun keeps the CO2 colder, as well, and cold CO2 is denser than when it's warm - hence more gas flows out with each shot.

Action airgun deserves action targets!
You can have the same fun with the PT-80 as with any of the Umarex or Daisy action pistols. One neat target that's easy to work with is Daisy's ShatterBlast target system. It features four target holders that stick in the ground and hold the clay ShatterBlast disks. Hit one and it bursts into pieces for a dramatic confirmation of your marksmanship. Ah! But the PT-80 is an 8-shot pistol, so you'll need 8 ShatterBlast disks to shoot, because action is the name of this game. Or, you could get the ShatterBlast Six Shooter, which automatically drops a fresh target when one is blasted. Regardless of which you get, be sure to stock up on extra ShatterBlast targets, too.

Another fancy target for action pistols is the Shoot-N-C. It's a stick-on target that turns from black to vivid yellow-green when hit. You can stand far away from this kind of target and see every impact as it happens! A package contains plenty of targets in three different sizes. The smaller ones can be used to cover holes in the larger targets - extending their lives. All you need is a cardboard box to stick the target on, a safe backstop and you're in business!

The laser comes with this version of the PT-80.

Other PT-80 models
Gamo also sells the PT-80 Laser - with a genuine laser attached to the gun. Once the laser is on and sighted-in, you shoot to the point indicated by the dot. That makes your action shooting go even faster. Gamo also offers the PT-80 with genuine walnut grips for shooters who prefer the dressed-up look.

The PT-80 is a lot of pistol at a very affordable price. If action pistol shooting intrigues you, this one might be just what you want.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Crosman 111 pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

A boxed Crosman model 111 gas pistol with the refill tank. This gem was found at a local flea market for $30!

Crosman was quick to get into CO2 guns in the 1930s, though they had to wait until after the war to really start production. Their first gas pistols were the model 111 in .177 and model 112 in .22. These two were made from 1950 to 1954, at which time their barrels were shortened by two inches and they were redesignated as the models 115 and 116, respectively. Consequently, the two earliest guns are often called the "long barrel" models.

This is a bulk-fill gun
The 12-gram powerlet we know today did not exist in 1950. During the 19420, the Benjamin Air Rifle Company made gas guns that used a common 8.5-gram soda siphon cartridge, so-called because of its popular use in seltzer bottles that were all the rage in the 1930s and 40s. Other airgun companies also used this common power source, but Crosman did not. Instead, they provided a separate gas tank to fill (charge) their guns. The model 197 gas tank holds 10 oz. of liquid CO2 when full and can fill airguns many times. This method of charging from a separate gas tank is today called bulk-filling.

In the 1950s, you were expected to mail your empty gas tank to a refill station to be filled, but airgunners soon found a way around that. They made adapters to connect the Crosman tank to the much larger 20-lb. bulk CO2 tanks used by restaurants. They got those large tanks refilled at their local industrial gas supplier. That's the way it's still done today, so getting into bulk-fill airguns is a bigger commitment than just buying a gun.

To fill the gun, the gas tank is screwed into the front of the gas reservoir located under the barrel. A rubber seal keeps this connection tight while filling. I always drop some Crosman Pellgunoil into the fill port before connecting the tank. It gets blown into the reservoir when the gun is filled and spreads to every seal as the gun is fired. My gun came from the estate of an elderly man who had passed away. His daughter was selling the things she didn't want, and she told me the gun had not been used for more than 20 years. Amazingly, the gun was still half-full (30 powerful shots) and so was the gas tank! I had the gun resealed about a year later, however, but by then I had already fired it thousands of times.

One fill delivers many shots
I get about 50 full-power shots from one fill of my model 111, providing the tank I'm filling from is reasonably full itself. Fifty shots is also about what you get with a modern gas pistol that uses a 12-gram powerlet, but the 111 gets around 75 f.p.s. higher velocity. I see about 525 f.p.s. with RWS Hobby pellets on a reasonably warm day (CO2 is temperature-dependent). So, the 111 really uses more than 12 grams of gas per fill. A model 115 with a shorter barrel and gas reservoir gets close to 50 shots, too, but they will be in the 475 f.p.s. region.

Adjustable power!
Just above the back of the grip is a small knob sticking out. That's the power adjustment knob. Turn it in for more power - out for less. Above that is the round bolt head that retracts to open the bolt for loading and also cocks the gun. This is a single-shot pistol that's capable of impressive accuracy. I find it as accurate as the Marksman 2004 I tested for you on February 10.

The bottom wheel is the power adjuster. The top is the bolt.

The gun itself
The pistol is a little muzzle-heavy, as you might expect from the picture. The grip is on the small side and the trigger is just a thin steel blade. All the ergonomics we see in today's airguns are missing, yet it still feels very good in your hand.

A crossbolt safety blocks the trigger when pushed to the right. Don't trust such safeties because they do not restrain the hammer. If it should slip off the sear for any reason, the gun would fire regardless of where the safety is set.

The pistol has an ambidextrous grip with two-piece plastic panels. The gray-white mottled grip on my pistol was correct for the model 111; the 112 had a reddish-brown mottled grip. Today, however, there's been so much swapping of parts that you may find anything on any gun. Except for caliber, the two pistols are completely identical.

Shooting and just owning these vintage Crosman pistols is a joy. There's also a pair of bulk-fill rifles to go with them - the .177-caliber model 113 and the .22-caliber 114. Any of these vintage airguns can still be purchased for under $100 today, and a set like the one shown here usually brings less than $150. They take a little more work to operate, but they're worth it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why you need a good airgun pellet trap!

by B.B. Pelletier

When I was a kid, I loved hot rods! As I grew older and began accepting responsibilities, I realized that function and reliability beat fashion and performance every time. When you are late for an important interview, you cannot use the "car broke down" excuse and expect to be hired. And, so it goes with all the really important things in life. Like pellet traps, for instance.

On Friday, an anonymous reader posted that he was starting to shoot through his Gamo cone pellet trap with his RWS model 52. This surprised him. Thankfully, he caught it right away. Allow me to tell you why this happens and share a few tales when it didn't work out so well.

But before I do, this comment just arrived as I was completing this posting. "I would like to mention pellet traps. I've been using the Cone Pellet Trap by GAMO for months and have quite an investment in paper targets for it. It's falling apart just from using my 392 at no closer than 10 yards and further. The spot welds on the bottom cap of the dead-pellet well gave loose so I "glued" it with a metal epoxy and it's been holding. But I've noticed that the top and sides of the funnel are bulging due to pellet impact and I'm getting concerned it may fail, so I'm thinking about a replacement.

Why doesn't the Gamo trap work?
It DOES work - providing you don't shoot at it with an airgun that's too powerful. HOWEVER, when I went to the Gamo website and looked at the specifications for this trap, they say nothing about which airguns are best suited for it! So, how is a dealer like Pyramyd Air supposed to know what a certain trap can and cannot handle, if the manufacturer doesn't tell them? Here is what I do about things when they REALLY have to work!

Get a pellet trap that no smallbore air rifle can EVER shoot through!
After having a similar experience, I finally coughed up the money for a genuine bullet trap - one made to stop a 40-grain lead bullet from a .22 long rifle cartridge. If it can do that, there ain't no smallbore airgun in the world ever going to do it any damage! I shoot a 65 foot-pound AirForce Condor at my Outer's bullet trap, which is rated to 100 foot-pounds. In a million shots, there will be no sign of damage to this trap. There are already more than 50,000 shots from various airguns on it, as it's been used for club shooting as well as my own for over 14 years. I used this trap to catch the shot from the Fire 201 air shotgun, which, you may recall, generates over 250 foot-pounds. Because the projectiles were small birdshot, each with far less energy than the whole shot column, the trap took it in stride. I have also shot .22 long rifle bullets into this trap with no problems.

Bullet traps of equal strength by Do-All and others are also available. All it takes is a Google search to find them.

Some things you may not have thought about
When you shoot an air rifle, the pellets all land close to each other. Down at the trap, those pellets land like an impact chisel! Each shot tries to go deeper than the one before. I know of a case where a shooter shot a 30 foot-pound air rifle (Webley Patriot) through his Daisy pellet trap (rated to just 6 foot-pounds!) then through a cinderblock wall behind the trap (he had no safety backstop!) and through the control panel of his wife's dryer on the other side of the wall! Granted it took almost 100 shots for all that to happen, but he KILLED his wife's clothes dryer! What you need for a rifle like the CF-X or a Diana RWS 34 is a trap so rugged that it can withstand ANYTHING you throw at it. I have other stories of guys shooting through their garage doors and wrecking the fronts of their cars and of guys shooting through the walls of their houses!

Don't feel too bad, though. In World War II, Standard Products of Detroit made M1 Carbines that they tested in their plant. They had a backstop of 10 feet of wet sand, backed by a concrete block wall. Needless to say there weren't very many real shooters working at Standard Products. One night early in production, the inevitable happened. They shot through the wall and began spraying bullets around the neighborhood! It may not happen all the time but it happens more frequently than it should.

What's behind your trap?
Shooting at a bullet trap without a safety panel behind it is like doing a trapeze act without a net. You may be very good, but it only takes one mistake. I had a 3/4" plywood panel behind my trap, and I actually shot through that and cracked a cinderblock in my foundation! Ouch! The odds of missing in exactly the same way more than once are extremely low, but I did it, nevertheless. And, with a Condor or a Career 707, you only have to miss twice the same way to do it.

Airguns are very safe compared to firearms, but there are still some fundamental safety precautions we have to take. Using a pellet trap that's up to the task is very close to the top of the list.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Gamo CF-X field test

by B.B. Pelletier

A Leapers 3-12x tactical mini-scope fits the CF-X with room to spare. B-Square high mounts give plenty of clearance.

The Gamo CF-X is a popular spring-piston rifle that I "tested" for you by surrogate on Friday, Jan. 6, of this year. I made some assumptions in that report. Now that I've tested an actual CF-X in the field, it's time to see how close I came. I mounted a Leapers 3-12x power compact tactical scope just for the CF-X guy to see how that scope works on the rifle. The scope rode in B-Square non adjustable 30mm rings with a B-Square scope stop placed behind the rear ring.

A first look at the rifle
The CF-X is a fixed-barrel underlever spring gun that uses a rotary breechblock to access the barrel for loading. Because this is a BSA design and because Gamo owns BSA, I assumed that the rotary breech would be similar to the one on the BSA SuperStar I shot years ago. The CF-X is a much smaller rifle with a narrower spring tube. It's also a bit lighter. In fact, I find the CF-X to be very light for all the power it has. I guessed that cocking would be smooth, and it is. The CF-X is the most refined powerplant Gamo has yet fielded. When it shoots, it's just as smooth - a fact I got wrong in the earlier report. I had thought there would be some twanginess to it, but the rifle I tested is quite smooth.

The trigger
The CF-X trigger is classic Gamo. It's extremely creepy with a long second stage pull. It takes a lot of getting used to. However, these triggers do wear in with time and will become crisper (or able to be adjusted to a crisper pull) after they have some time on them. To their credit, Gamo puts a manual safety on the gun. Once it's cocked, you're ready to go.

The rotary breech
I do not care for the rotary breech, but if it's necessary, I'll live with it. Round-nosed pellets tend to flip around backwards on the loading ramp, which takes time to sort out. I soon learned to load this rifle horizontally instead of resting the butt on my leg (like I usually do) because many pellets fell back out of the breech. The loading ramp on the CF-X is also not as smooth as the one on the BSA I tested, so this gun REALLY flips pellets if you're not careful!

The breechblock rotates to the left, revealing a groove that guides the pellet to the barrel.

All guns will vary; this is what I got with mine. RWS Hobby (7 grains) averaged 942 f.p.s. Crosman Premier light (7.9 grains) averaged 873 f.p.s. Beeman Kodiak (10.6 grains) averaged 785 f.p.s. The new Gamo Raptor (5 grains) averaged 1153 f.p.s. I notice that my velocities are only a few f.p.s. different than those of reader JB, which is encouraging.

I learned that the CF-X does not like heavy pellets! It threw Beeman Kodiaks and Crosman Premiers 10.5-grain pellets all over the place at the 33 yards I had the target placed. Group sizes of 2.5" to 3.5" were common at that range, which is way below acceptable accuracy for a gun in this price range. Then, I tried Crosman Premier lights - the pellet of choice for many spring gun competitors in field target. The groups climbed up on the target about three inches and shrank to less than 1.5" for five shots. I was onto something, but still shooting poorly.

None of the usual techniques worked!
Group after group was a heartbreaker, with three shots going into an American quarter and numbers four and five opening it up. I tried every technique I know, and even held the rifle firmly to see if that was the solution. It wasn't. I also tried something that usually doesn't work - I rested the gun DIRECTLY on a sandbag without a hand in between. Voila! The groups tightened by a third! My best group of the session at 33 yards was one that measures 0.886" - just over 3/4 of an inch. I shot enough similar-sized groups with this technique to know that this one is not a fluke.

While the CF-X is not in the TX200 class for accuracy, it's right there with most RWS Diana guns. I know I said yesterday that an RWS Diana 52 can almost keep all its shots on a dime at 30 yards, but I believe the CF-X can do it, too. With my limited test, all I did was establish that the gun can shoot - I have not pushed it as far as it will go. Just hand-sorting the pellets should eliminate another quarter-inch from the groups. And, who knows what the absolute best pellet may be? Discovering that requires an investment in range time.

Gamo Raptors!
I couldn't get Raptors to print on the target paper at 33 yards, so I backed up to 15 FEET and shot a couple. They were already beginning to disburse at that close range, so I knew they would be wildly inaccurate in this rifle. I then moved the target to 15 yards (45 feet) and proceeded to shoot a five-shot group that measured 1.065". At 33 yards, that would open to a four or five-inch group which is absurd. The Raptor is not a pellet for the CF-X. CF-X guy - if you want to shoot tin cans with them, make sure they're close.

My take on the Gamo CF-X? It's a heck of a lot of air rifle for the money! The action is tight and smooth and the rifle is light and very easy to cock. The trigger is the worst feature, but it's one of the better Gamo triggers I've seen (and we know it gets better with use). The rifle is surprisingly accurate, and I will be recommending it to a lot of new shooters. The Leapers scope and B-Square mounts made this test very easy and pleasurable.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Best pellets for the Diana RWS 52 & how to pick pellets for any springer

by B.B. Pelletier

On Friday, we received a comment with several questions that I'd like to address this week. The first concerns selecting the correct pellets for the Diana RWS 52. I'll talk you through that and generalize for most springers - so you'll be able to pick great pellets on your own. The comment we received included the following, "...could you offer an explanation as to why some pellets are seemingly more accurate than others? And I am using heavy weight pellets, could you comment on the value of using heavy vs lighter ones in this air rifle?

Heavy vs light pellets
In a spring gun, the piston travels all the way forward and comes to a stop before the pellet starts to move (that's the way it's supposed to work). If you use a very light or very loose-fitting pellet, the pellet can start to move before the piston stops. When the piston comes to a stop, it does so against a thin cushion of highly compressed air that separates it from the front of the compression chamber. That cushion protects the piston seal from impact damage. Sometimes, the piston will rebound off this high-pressure air cushion just as the pellet starts to move forward. If it bounces too far, it will lower the air pressure and rob the shot of potential power.

From the standpoint of efficiency only (accuracy not considered), the best pellet for a particular spring gun is one that starts to move at the moment the piston comes to a stop. That allows the piston to settle softly against the end of the compression chamber as the air pressure drops. Now, how do you determine which pellet that is?

You use a chronograph to determine which pellets give the greatest power in your gun. We've discussed this before, and you now know that spring guns favor lighter pellets (this is the reason why). Light pellets work better because they start moving sooner. Springers like that because they don't have a large amount of compressed air to work with. Are only light pellets good for springers? NOT AT ALL!

You must consider accuracy!
Power without accuracy is a waste of time. The goal is to combine the best accuracy with the best power in a given gun. A short-stroke action like one of the RWS sidelevers tends to extract more power from the lightest pellets, while a long-stroke action like the Diana RWS 350 Magnum probably likes pellets in the medium-weight range. Try them also for accuracy to find the absolute best pellet. While 7.0-grain RWS Hobby pellets may give the most power in a .177 RWS 52, it may be that 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers are more accurate. Shoot the heavy Premiers and forget the 1.5 to 2 foot-pounds of greater power the Hobbys might deliver in that rifle.

Incidentally, a Diana RWS 52 in .177 is capable of sub-1" five-shot groups at 50 yards. At 35 yards, a good shooter should be almost able to keep all his shots on a dime. That's shooting on a calm day from a rest and resting the forearm on the flat of your open hand. Your trigger-finger hand does not hold the pistol grip any tighter than necessary, and the butt is not pulled into your shoulder. If there's a scope level on the rifle, check it before each shot. If you grasp the rifle's stock in any way, you can forget that level of accuracy.

Can the wrong pellet damage the rifle?
There isn't much information on this subject, but I believe the wrong pellet can injure a spring rifle. I think shooting a pellet that is either too light or too loose is similar to dry-firing the gun. I know Gamo says their guns can take it, but I still do not like doing it. Very light/very loose pellets can also cause explosive detonations, and we are pretty sure they do damage the mainsprings. Diana RWS guns have very hard mainsprings (maybe a touch too hard), and they're most susceptible to damage caused by detonations. I have fixed several Diana RWS guns that had one inch broken off at one or both ends of the spring. Those guns will keep right on shooting, but they show a distinct drop in velocity.

What about real heavy pellets?
Some people feel heavy pellets also damage mainsprings. I don't believe this myself, but as I said, there isn't much to go on. Another problem with pellets that are too heavy is that they don't stabilize well enough for good accuracy at longer ranges (beyond 40 yards).

Do I have to test EVERY pellet to find a good one?
No! I addressed this on several occasions in past postings, but the best one is Best pellet of all? posted on August 19, 2005. Read that and also use the Bloglines search engine on this blog to look for other pellet postings. Testing every pellet is a waste of time and money, since many of them don't work well in ANY airgun. I also have a rule of thumb that I follow: RWS airgun, RWS pellet. Do that for all manufacturers; it works a lot of the time.

Here is what I have not answered with this posting: Why some pellets are more accurate than others. I wish I knew the answer, but I don't. I also don't trust anyone who says they do. I do know that pellets that have been sorted by weight usually out-perform those that haven't been, and JSB pellets are all hand-sorted. That's why I believe JSBs are often the most accurate pellets.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Diana RWS 350 Magnum

by B.B. Pelletier

A reader named RWS 350 asked for this post, but several others chimed in with interest, too. So, for all of you who like the big springers, here we go!

Diana's most powerful airgun!
Before the Diana RWS 350 Magnum came along, the 48/52/54 sidelever (same powerplant in different stocks) was the top Diana gun. But the long-stroke 350 breakbarrel produces even more power than those big bruisers.

It's big but not heavy!
At 48", the 350 Magnum is one of the longest air rifles on the market. But tipping the scales at just 8.2 lbs., it is medium weight - for the power. Being a long-stroke springer, it kicks hard, but not as hard as the Webley Patriot, which is also sold as the Beeman Kodiak.

Velocity and power
The .22 caliber rifle I tested got 935 f.p.s. with RWS Hobby pellets, 870 with RWS Superpoints and 675 with Beeman Kodiaks. To get the 1050 f.p.s. that RWS advertises, you'll have to shoot a lightweight pellet with a synthetic skirt, which I don't recommend doing in a spring rifle of this power - not enough cushion for the piston. So, the difference between this gun and the advertised velocity for the Kodiak/Patriot is nonexistent. In my testing, Superpoints delivered the most energy, at just under 24.5 foot-pounds. Crosman Premiers were the most accurate, with Kodiaks a close second.

Shooting technique
Being a long-stroke springer, the 350 takes a lot of technique to shoot accurately. You have to float it very lightly to realize all the accuracy it has, which is a lot if you do your part. Do not grasp the stock in any way, but rest it on your open palm and allow the rifle to move when it fires. Don't grip the pistol grip tightly or press the buttpad into your shoulder. In this respect, shooting the 350 is identical to shooting the Kodiak/Patriot. My five-shot groups averaged 0.35" at 25 yards, which is almost as good as I can do with an RWS sidelever. I had an RWS 450 scope on mine, but one of the new Leapers TS scopes would be a better choice today, because they are more rugged and have clearer optics.

Mounting a scope
This is a weak point on all Diana RWS airguns. Their scope rail has three shallow depressions that are not deep enough to hold a recoil stop pin in a set of rings. There is a large-headed screw at the rear of the rail, and you may be tempted to butt the rear ring against the head (I've done it, too), but it will not take the repeated stress of recoil. If you use it that way, you can shear off the screw head! The solution, which I read about years ago, is to hang the scope stop pin in front of the rail, where it can bear against the full depth of the aluminum rail. That leaves half the front ring (assuming a two-piece ring set) hanging off the rail, which is a good reason to use a one-piece mount on an RWS airgun. I used a medium-height Beeman 5030 scope ring with the RWS scope, but any good non-adjustable ring should work. Just make sure you match the ring height and diameter to the scope used. The RWS scope ramp doesn't give much clearance over the top of the compression tube.

The Diana scope rail is not very conducive to scope mounting. Don't butt the rear ring against the large screw head at the right. Instead, hang the stop pin in front of the scope rail, so it has something to bear against.

Cocking effort
Cocking a 350 is as easy as cocking a Beeman R1 and just a little harder than cocking one of the big Diana RWS sidelevers. At just 36 lbs., it's nowhere near the effort required for a Patriot (50 lbs.) or the even more difficult Gamo 1250 (60 lbs.). Yet, this rifle has power equivalent to those airguns. The ballbearing detent that keeps the barrel closed is very easy to overcome, so you don't need to slap the muzzle to break the barrel open.

The 350 Magnum comes in both .177 and .22. If you buy this rifle in .177, you'll throw out so much power in that caliber. It's like buying a new Corvette with a V6 engine (if they made one) for better fuel economy. However, this is just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions!

Good trigger
The trigger can be adjusted to be very nice BUT YOU HAVE TO READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL! If you don't, you'll be turning screws for years without a clue as to what they do. Properly set up, a Diana trigger can be as crisp as a Rekord, and that's saying a lot.

It's a classic airgun!
The 350 magnum is large but not heavy. It's powerful but easy to cock. It's difficult to scope but very accurate when you do. Besides all that, it feels right when held and shot. It has all the earmarks of a classic air rifle that will endure the test of time.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Crosman 1077 - a fun pellet gun

by B.B. Pelletier

CWI posted that he has both a Crosman Nightstalker and a 1077. He likes his NightStalker but not his 1077. The airgundoc asked me to blog it, however. I thought I had already reported on this rifle, but looking back, I can't find it. So, here we go - hopefully not again!

It's really a revolver!
The 1077 looks something like Ruger's 10/22, which it's patterned after, but inside the gun's mechanism is a revolver instead of a semiauto. This revolving aspect is where the (sometimes) long, hard trigger-pull comes from, as you are both advancing the clip to the next pellet as well as cocking and releasing the hammer. The Ruger 10/22 is a highly successful product, and Crosman's copy is too. I expect it to be around for many more years.

Run by CO2
This is a gas rifle and available only in .177 caliber. Its velocity is in the 575-600 f.p.s. region with accurate pellets, which makes it too weak for hunting. But, it's the perfect gun for plinking and general shooting.

For many years, there was just one basic model - the one that accepts 12-gram powerlets. Crosman added a walnut stock in the late '90s, and a few years ago they adapted it to their new AirSource system. Newer guns can be converted from 12-gram to AirSource, though one of our readers reports having problems with his conversion. Read the conversion stipulations on the Pyramyd Air website (in the conversion description), which is straight from Crosman.

A collectible model
For a few years in the '90s, Crosman offered a model they called the Constant Air gun. It was a 1077 adapted to accept a braided steel hose from a 12-ounce CO2 tank that was either worn on the belt or clamped to the bottom of the gun. The retail price of $185 for the Constant Air setup kept sales low, but the existence of that rare variation proves how dedicated Crosman was to get back into bulk-filled CO2. They had not made a gun of that type since 1954.

Both a clip and a magazine are required
The heart of the rifle is a removable box-like magazine. Into this magazine goes a circular 12-shot clip loaded with pellets. When it's inserted, it's locked in place. The large magazine is easier to handle than the much smaller clip, so it is used to load the clip into the rifle.

Different clips work differently in the magazine, so you will get a different trigger-pull as each new clip is installed. As the rifle wears in it becomes smoother and the trigger pull gets lighter until it arrives at a very pleasurable state. My first 1077 was a used gun that was already worn in, so I didn't experience the harsh trigger of a new gun for a long time. When I got a second rifle that was adapted for the AirSource cartridge and it, too, had a sweet pull right out of the box. I've felt some 1077s with harder pulls, however, and they do crop up here and there. The best tuneup you can give the gun is hard use, which isn't difficult once you find out how much fun the rifle can be.

Very accurate!
My first rifle is so accurate that I mounted a $300 Beeman SS-2 compact scope on it. That seems laughable, but this gun can drill a dime at 25 yards all day long, so it's worth the better scope. Also, the obsolete Beeman is one of the smallest on the market, which goes well with the 1077's smaller size and weight. Today, I would mount a Leapers Bug Buster 2 on one - which doesn't cost anywhere near as much as the SS-2!

A classic
The 1077 is a design that will endure through time. Long after it's no longer sold, new airgunners will be hoarding the used guns and using them for what they were built to do - shoot fast, accurate and OFTEN!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Scuba tank testing - hydrostatic and visual inspection

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm back in the office and I thank all of you who helped out with the answers for the past week! I will go through the questions and add my two cents to a few, but most can ride just the way they are.

Today, I want to look at scuba tanks and their testing requirements.

Controlled by the U.S. Department of Transportation
Pressure vessels are regulated by the DOT for the safety of transport vehicles, their passengers and the environments through which they pass. Every scuba tank model must pass an initial DOT certification, then EACH manufactured scuba tank must pass a test before it can be sold. This is 100 percent inspection that even racing tires are not subjected to! It is somewhat equivalent to space specifications, so this is an extremely well-controlled industry!

Hydrostatic testing
After the initial test, the results are stamped into the body of the scuba tank, along with the date (year and month) it passed. After that, the tank must be retested hydrostatically every five years. The test for each tank is on file at the DOT, and the testing station must contact them to obtain the correct test specification. A common hydrostatic test is to pressurize the scuba tank to 5/3 of its working pressure and to measure the flexing of the tank walls. Five-thirds of a 3,000 psi working pressure means that the tank will be pressurized to 5,000 psi. This is done by replacing the valve with a special hydraulic testing connection and filling the scuba tank with water under pressure - NOT air! Air would be too explosive if the tank were to let go during the test, as it sometimes will. Because water cannot be compressed, the tank cannot explode if it fails.

Testing is done inside an armored vessel. The one my hydro station uses is sunk into the shop floor for added protection. The tank is also under water, and they measure the amount that a water column rises as the tank is pressurized. This measures the amount of tank expansion. The water inside does not expand, but the aluminum or steel tank casing certainly does! They are looking for tanks that DO NOT expand as much under pressure, indicating that their walls have been work-hardened over the years. Like a piece of steel that is repeatedly flexed, the tank walls get hard to the point that they may suddenly fail with a snap. This is EXTREMELY rare outside the testing station. When it DOES happen, it's almost always fatal to people standing close by.

You know it when they fail!
When a tank fails during hydro, it's usually the valve threads that let go. It sounds like a loud "whump" if you are in the building when one fails. The other thing that sometimes happens, but not as often, is that the bottom of the tank bursts open. This is due to corrosion. If the tank fails to flex enough during the test, it can never be filled with air again, and no dive shop will do so. It will not be stamped with a current test stamp (one within the past five years) and is "out of hydro" as far as any dive shop is concerned. One possible use for a failed tank is to cut off the bottom with a carbide saw (a lengthy process!) and hang it far downrange on a rifle range to be used as a gong.

Will a dive shop ever cheat?
Yes, it does happen. The few fatalities that occur usually happen at dive shops when shop operators fill out-of-hydro scuba tanks. So, in a cruel way, this is a Darwinian control over cheating! If you follow the rules, you are as safe as an airline passenger, and several times safer than any car passenger. I've been in three auto accidents in my life, but no airplane or scuba tank accidents - thank God!

The annual visual inspection
The annual visual inspection is performed by a dive shop. They let the air out of the tank and removes the valve to have a look inside. They're looking for signs of corrosion and will refuse to put a visual inspection sticker on the tank if they find any. These stickers are paper or plastic and they stick to the tank. Every dive shop I have used has refused to fill a tank that has an out-of date inspection sticker. But they can do the inspection right there - the tank does not have to be sent to an outside party. They open the valve a little to slowly let the air out. This prevents condensation from rapid cooling. It takes 12 hours or more for a tank to bleed down - especially since airgunners seldom let their tanks drop below 2,000 psi. Let the dive shop bleed your tank for you; they know what they're doing!

Do the guns need an inspection?
This is a great question! What about an airgun with a fixed reservoir? It never gets tested. AirForce guns have a removable reservoir, and they DO get tested by the DOT during the manufacturing process.

Some manufacturers of 10-meter target guns with removable tanks instruct owners to discard their tanks after 20 years. There is no regulation governing that, it's simply their recommendation. No gun with a fixed reservoir has any recommendation whatsoever. Because the U.S. DOT does not regulate pressure vessels smaller than two inches in outside diameter, they don't have to do anything. Other countries have different regulations, so check with your nation's regulatory agency.

Airguns ARE much safer
They are safer for two reasons. First, their reservoirs are usually so small that they have no practical end to their life span. That's why the DOT doesn't bother with them. The second reason is that PCPs seldom fall below 2,000 psi, so they don't work-harden nearly as much. The few that do go lower are usually not filled to 3,000 psi. So the air reservoirs on PCP guns are not work-hardened to the same extent that scuba tanks are when they are used by divers who take them to empty every time. The DOT has to regulate scuba tanks for their harshest intended purpose, so there will be no provisions for them when they are used only for filling airguns.

Problems outside the box
There are still some issues that are not addressed in this discussion. Filling scuba tanks from your own compressor is one. Filling guns from a hand pump is another. And there are more. The onus for safe operation ultimately falls to the owner of the gun. If you play by the rules and use common sense, you will be safe and can enjoy a wonderful hobby. If you cheat and cut corners - well, there are nicknames for such people - "Lefty," "Stumpy" and "The Late...."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Crosman Nightstalker

by B.B. Pelletier

There is already an article about the Crosman Nightstalker by Tom Gaylord on the Pyramyd Air website. I just wanted to add my two cents and share some observations that are a little different.

A real semiauto with a twist
Yesterday, I reported on Crosman's 451 military pistol. That gun is a true semiauto air pistol in every respect of the term. The new Nightstalker is also a semiauto, but one with a strange twist. I spoke to Ed Schultz, Crosman's production manager, about why the trigger of the Nightstalker is as heavy as it is. It breaks at around seven pounds, where the vintage Crosman 600 and 451 pistols both break at less than two. Why the big difference? He told me that Crosman engineers made the Nightstalker auto-cocking, but left the advancement of the 12-shot clip manual for greater reliability. In other words, your trigger finger has to rotate the clip to the next pellet before it releases the sear, which is where the extra pull weight comes from.

This is similar to but not the same as Crosman's 1077 rifle, which is a true double-action only revolver masquerading as a semiauto. The 1077's trigger not only advances the clip (the same one the Nightstalker uses), it also cocks the hammer before releasing it for the shot. I do know that the triggers on all the 1077s I've seen became lighter with use. I have one that is very smooth and light, because it's probably been shot more than 10,000 times. My newer 1077 is stiffer, but still breaks about the same as a new Nightstalker. I have hope that both guns will lighten with use.

Schultz also told me that Crosman located the cocking handle on the left side of what they call the exoskeleton, so shooters would have some sense of the semiauto feature. I found that I had to back up and focus on the handle to see any hint of motion - it works that fast. That's when it hit me! Crosman left the indexing to the trigger so the Nightstalker cannot be turned into a full-auto machine gun, like the 600 pistol often is!

No need to seat pellets deeply
Crosman has examined the rifle Tom Gaylord tested and determined it had an indexing problem, which is why the pellets had to be seated so deeply. My rifle works fine with the pellets seated to the normal depth, and there has never been a tie-up like Gaylord experienced. His gun was apparently not aligning all the chambers correctly, and some of the gas was deflecting off the breech and pushing the pellets out the back of the clip.

When you load up the Nightstalker with everything in the kit, it looks wicked! There's a very accurate rifle inside all that stuff, too!

Nightstalker kit
My Nightstalker is the kit model with all the accessories. Normally, I'm not an accessory kind of guy, but Crosman has put together a very nice package with this kit. The bipod works very well, so I used it for all my accuracy testing. That's the ultimate test of a bipod. The red dot sight works very well and was also used in accuracy testing. And, the tactical flashlight is just plain cool! It has no useful purpose mounted on a pellet rifle, but it is as bright as daylight and quite impressive! I'm using it off the rifle as the most powerful flashlight I currently own (which is a compliment of sorts, because I seem to collect flashlights!).

Accuracy is super!
My rifle out-performed the one in Gaylord's test by a wide margin. In fact, it was so much better that I asked Ed Schultz about it. He said the Nightstalkers typically give groups ranging from the size Gaylord got down to what I got. My five-shot groups with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers measured under 0.30" at 20 yards. I shot many that size, so this wasn't just a fluke.

How many shots per cartridge?
I know this number is important to a few people, but frankly those are the same people who never buy the gun! They just want to know all the facts. The fact is, I shot hundreds of shots in 65-degree weather, and the gas cartridge is still working. I know the number was in the hundreds because I had to load all those 12-shot clips! I have no clue what THE NUMBER is, so please don't ask. Crosman says up to 350 shots on their website, so I'd guess it's something over 300.

If you like fun airguns, the Nightstalker is probably for you. If you already own and like a 1077, you definitely want to look at one of these. It's probably going to become an airgun classic!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Crosman's mysterious 451 Military .45 Auto

by B.B. Pelletier

That was the model designation, but the 451 was really a .22 pellet pistol. As famous as the Crosman 600 is, the 451 is equally unknown, except among advanced collectors. Both air pistols were .22 caliber semiautomatics with true semiauto functioning. But where the 600 remained in production a full decade (1960-1970), the 451 was only made for part of two years ('69 & '70).

As scabby as this one looks, this Crosman 451 is still a $250 gun if it holds and shoots!

A true semiauto
As you are aware, real semiauto pellet pistols are not common. The Drulov DU-10 is one, and there are a couple of five-shot 10-meter target pistols, but pellets don't lend themselves to being run through gun actions rapidly. This has kept their development at a minimum. The model 451 has a strange circular magazine mounted on top of the gun, and it rotates in the horizontal plane rather than vertically, which is conventional. Like the SA-6 revolver, pellets are loaded skirt-first into the six chambers on this magazine, which makes this the world's only muzzle-loading semiautomatic air pistol.

Single-action only
Like the M1911A1 it copies so closely, the 451 must start with the hammer cocked. When it falls, it strikes open the firing valve, sending gas up the hollow tube that also acts as an axle for the cylinder. The gas pushes on the pellet in the firing chamber, sending it downrange, but a small portion of gas enters a secondary passage and pushes on a valve that impacts against the slide, shoving it backward. The slide cocks the hammer on its way back, then runs forward under spring pressure and advances the cylinder for the next shot. It all happens so fast that it's almost impossible to detect anything beyond the noise and recoil from the shot. If the hammer fails to cock, you must recock it by hand, as this is a single-action pistol and the trigger will not cock the hammer.

The shooter feels an impulse of recoil from the weight of the moving slide, and the trigger is very light, needing only to restrain the hammer for firing. Gas pressure and springs run the rest of the operation. Actually, the sheetmetal slide is not full-sized. It runs about two-thirds of the top of the pistol, but it's heavy enough to cock the hammer and to impart the feeling of recoil.

In its day, the 451 had no equal. It was the only pellet pistol with a realistic recoiling action. Accuracy was very good, but gas usage was the pits! Because so much gas was used for the blowback facility, the 451 got only about 18 shots per powerlet. Compare it to the 600 model, which got 30-33 shots per powerlet. That number was low, too, but compared to CO2 air pistols made today, the 451 is abysmal.

Except for the CO2 adjustment mechanism on the bottom of the magazine well and the lump in the middle of the slide, the 451 looks very convincing.

Difficult to repair
As long as it works, a 451 is reliable. When it gets out of order, it's a bear to repair. Not all repair stations can fix one, so check before sending in your treasure. A common problem was the nylon piston that actuates the slide - it will start leaking and lose energy. When that happens, the gun will fail to cock. That repair is an easier one than tearing into the whole gun.

If you want a vintage gun like this, you'll have to watch the auction sites and be prepared to pay for it. They do turn up at airguns shows, but the prices are high there, as well. If you just want a semiauto pistol you're a lot better off with a Drulov or even a Crosman 600. Some of you will absolutely HAVE to own the rarest of all Crosman semiautos, now that you know they exist!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Marksman 2004 single-stroke pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Here's a sporting pellet pistol that can also be used for informal target shooting. It has fully adjustable sights, a single-stroke pneumatic powerplant, a nice trigger and it sells for less than $50. It's the Marksman 2004 pistol!

Marksman's 2004 single-stroke pneumatic pistol is a direct copy of the HW 40 PCA/Beeman P3.

Made in China
Let's get this out in the open from the start. This pistol is made in China for Marksman. Marksman is based in Southern California, where they build many of the guns they sell. The Marksman 1010 spring-piston pistol is the oldest and most famous of all the guns they make. Some day I'll write a report on the 1010, but today we're looking at the 2004.

One more thing to reveal. This gun is a close copy of the Weihrauch HW 40 PCA, which Beeman sells as the P3. And, Marksman owns Beeman. As far as who did what to whom or is the 2004 just as good as the P3, I am not qualified to say. Yes, there is a lot of intrigue in the airgun business, but I try to stay out of it if I can. I'm just interested in this pistol on its own merits.

It looks like high quality!
Don't underestimate the Chinese as manufacturers. If they have a good design to begin with, and if the factory can overcome some cultural hinderances, they can make products as good as those of any other country on this planet. Where they fall short is in a cultural belief system (no doubt the result of Communism) that "good enough is all it takes." When that belief system runs the show, things go downhill fast. Some Chinese airguns are so laughably poor that they are a comedy of errors and deserve the scorn they receive from the rest of the world for making those airguns.

In other areas, the Chinese have now set the world standard. Optics, for instance. Most sport optics (scope sights, lasers, astromonical telescopes, dot sights, etc.) are now made in China. Most of the world's finest cameras are either made there or their lenses are ground there, because the Chinese lead the world in lens production. The Europeans and Japanese set them up in that business in the 1970s, and they've been expanding the market ever since.

The 2004 pistol I have looks more like a fine camera than it does a typical Chinese airgun. Whoever is in charge of making it is doing things right. There are no voids in the synthetic body, the corners and lettering are crisp, the plating on the bright parts looks even, the pins are all the right size and length (they're solid, not rolled), all the screws fit and are undamaged, and the lubricant doesn't smell like a slaughterhouse! These are all the visible indicators that a typical Chinese airgun would get wrong. The only way to tell if the barrel is any good is to shoot the gun. The way to test the powerplant is with a chronograph.

I chose two target wadcutter pellets I've come to trust for this test. The JSB Match Diabolo is a world-class target pellet, and the Gamo Match pellet, while less expensive, often performs just as well. I shoot 10-meter air pistol competitively, so my experience with both pellets is first-hand. I find pumping the 2004 a little hard, which is probably due to the length of the top part of the gun that's used as a pumping lever. This is not a gun for youngsters. On the other hand, the pumping effort became smoother and somewhat lighter as the shots increased. Pumping the gun automatically sets the safety - a feature I detest but understand in today's litigious world. There is no dry-fire feature.

The trigger-pull is slightly creepy (that means you can feel the movement of the trigger through stage two of the pull) but very nice and light at 1-1/2 lbs. The only feature that would make it nicer is an overtravel adjustment. There IS a small screw of some kind in the trigger blade but no corresponding access hole in the triggerguard for the Allen wrench to fit through, so I was unable to make any adjustments.

The front sight is a wide square post that is too wide for the rear notch. It was difficult to obtain a precise sight picture because of little light on either side of the front post. Nevertheless, I managed to group five shots inside three-tenths of an inch at 25 feet when I did my part. That answers the big question about the barrel. This one is very good! The rear sight adjusts in both directions, but the screws lack detents. Pay attention to the scribe marks around the elevation adjustment screw and the orientation of the screw slot on the windage screw to see how far you've gone. They move the shot group very precisely.

Marksman says this gun shoots 410 f.p.s. JSB Match Diabolo pistol pellets averaged 411 f.p.s. with a 3 f.p.s. total deviation over 10 shots. Gamo Match pellets went an average of 406 f.p.s. with a 9 f.p.s. variation for the 10-shot string. All shooting was done in 58-degree (F) weather. I'd say the 2004 is right on the money!

The Marksman 2004 pistol is a $150 value selling for less than $50! It's that good. I cut this gun no slack because of the pistol it copies, but this one needed no apologies. If I were Weihrauch, I'd be concerned.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hy-Score 800 spring pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm taking a nostalgia trip today, looking at an American air pistol from the 1950s. The Hy-Score 800 is one of several airguns made by the Hy-Score firm, which also imported a great number of air pistols and rifles from Europe.

Hy-Score's 800 is a classic air pistol with innovations seen nowhere else! The rear sight elevator is missing.

Designed & made in America!
The Hy-Score pistols of the 700- and 800-series are unique, in that they are the only adult spring pistols made in this country. And, they all have innovations galore, which we will explore today. Of all the pistols made, and hundreds of thousands were produced between 1947 and 1970, the model 800 is by far the most common - though you wouldn't know it to look at the web auction sites. Dealers too young to remember when these guns were new have decided they MUST be rare and are starting their auctions with prices of $150 and more. At an airgun show, a good shooter brings $80, while one that's NIB will fetch $175. Blue Book of Airguns says the range spans from $40 to $180, which is right on the money.

Model 700 was the first
Designed by Andrew Lawrence, the model 700 was the first iteration of the pistol. It was produced in 1947 only, and today commands about twice what an 800 brings. Also, the 700s don't lose as much value as their condition deteriorates. If you've seen an 800, the 700 will look very familiar. The biggest differences were in the methods of manufacture, with the 700 being made more of solid steel and requiring more machining time. When held next to an 800, a 700 looks more substantial; but if there is no 800 around, you'd swear it was the same gun.

Model 800 (1948-1970)
The model 800 is made from materials that require less machine time - hence, the price could be held lower. Drawn tubing instead of machined steel was used for the powerplant housing. The piston was fitted around the rear of a very long 10.25" barrel and used it as a spring guide. This design was borrowed from the British, who used it in several airguns, notably the Acvoke. The breech was accessed by a novel mechanism housed inside the swelling at the rear of the receiver. It acted something like a camera shutter and sealed the breech when closed. Twist in one direction to open for loading and back to close the breech. The gun was held with the muzzle pointed straight down to load, because the pellet had to drop through the loading port and into the back of the barrel.

Novel cocking, too
A latch unlocks the powerplant tube, allowing the shooter to lift it up and tilt it forward. A link in the frame drags the piston forward during this motion until the sear catches it. This is reminiscent of the Beeman P1 (HW45) cocking process. The trigger uses leverage to reduce the pull, but nothing reduces a rather long, creepy movement. It is certainly not a target trigger, despite the word "target" in the pistol's name. There is no adjustment; by opening the gun a small amount, you do get a dry-fire capability.

Both calibers had adequate power
The first pistols used automotive-type piston rings. When these proved too unreliable, an O-ring was substituted. Hy-Score pistols develop velocity in the high 300 f.p.s. region in .22 caliber, which is all I ever tested. They do exist in .177 as well as a smoothbore for BBs. For the power potential of their mainspring, they were a little on the weak side. I've attribute that to the breech sealing mechanism.

A repeater!
A repeating mechanism was available on the model 802. It held the pellets inside the breech mechanism, and they rotated around to the loading port. When opened, the next pellet dropped into the breech if the pistol was held correctly.

Accuracy, schmaccuracy!
Like the trigger, the available accuracy is not indicative of the word "target" on the box. I used to get 2.5" groups at 10 meters. It's a pretty poor pistol that can be beat by a Webley Senior - but the Hy-Score can.

More innovation: changeable barrels!
The model 803 Sportster is a short-barrelled single-shot with all three calibers as interchangeable barrels. They're much more scarce and having one in the box with all the barrels and paper is a real find! A model 804 is the same gun with the repeating mechanism.

The Sportster model came with .177 and .22 rifled barrels and a smoothbore barrel for BBs. Though it looks short, the barrel extends all the way to the back of the pistol.

The last guns that were made have impressed engraving on their frames. All metal parts are well blued, and the Tenite plastic grips come in a variety of colors. The rear sight riser is pretty loose, and many guns will be missing it. Blue Book says they were also chromed, but I wonder if that should be nickelplated, instead. Chrome plating on guns is very rare and doesn't look nearly as good as nickel, which has a slight golden cast to it.

If you want to own America's only adult spring-pistol air pistol, this is the one to get.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Airguns and noise

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm out of the office from today through next Tuesday. The postings will still go up, but I won't be here to answer questions. Will some of you oldtimers please advise the newer readers and help them if you can?

A reader called MCA asked the following question,"One subject that hasn't gotten much coverage is noise, so I have a request. I think you said you have a Talon SS, and now you have a CF-X; Please rank the following loudest to quietest: Your CF-X, your CF-X dry fired (we know its OK), your Talon SS, and your Talon with the 24" barrel (if you have it). Does the SS noise suppressor work? How about the TX200 noise suppressor? Do they work, or is it just marketing? I presume that you are expecting the Gamo CF-X to detonate when it's dry-fired, and that's why you made that distinction.

I HAVE covered airgun noise
I did a post on noise titled, Airgun powerplant noise - which guns are louder and why on Jan 2, 2006. To find topics your interested in, enter your search terms (in this case "airgun noise") in the Google search feature on the home page of this blog. It's in the right-hand column.

Most of the noise question was answered in that posting, but I'm doing this again in case you missed it. MCA asked me to rank four situations. From the Jan. 2 blog, we know that the Talon SS with the optional 24" barrel will be the loudest of all. The standard Talon SS is a good bit quieter. Both are PCPs and neither has a true silencer on it. The Gamo CF-X will be the quietest of all. Where does that put the Gamo that detonates (not diesel but detonate - remember, all spring guns diesel)? My experience puts it as loud or a little louder than the Talon SS on its highest power setting.

Does the Talon SS end cap really work, or is it just advertising hype?
The way to find out is to remove the end cap. Then, you'll hear a really loud blast! Yes, the Talon SS end cap really works. If it didn't, it wouldn't be the single most-copied PCP feature offered by third parties in the U.S. (i.e., the shrouded barrel).

What about the baffles in the barrel shroud on the TX200?
Yes, they work as advertised, but that allows me to make a point about airgun noise. I had an older TX200 Mark II that didn't have a shroud or baffles, but it was as quiet as the newer shrouded TX200 Mk III. That's because it was a tuned gun. Ken Reeves did a very good tune that removed all vibration from the gun. The TX200 doesn't have much vibration to begin with, but when it all goes away, the gun becomes super-quiet. And that's the point. A tuned spring-piston powerplant is as quiet as a silenced one. The only noise you'll hear is that which is conducted through the bones in your face when it's pressed against the stock.

Want a quiet PCP? There IS a way!
Simply adjust the power of the gun to the point that it no longer expels lots of highly compressed air. When you shoot an AirForce Talon on power setting No. 6, it's as quiet as a Talon SS on setting No. 9. It's about as powerful, too! By backing off on the power of your PCP, it'll quiet down. Not all PCPs are as adjustable as AirForce guns, so this might not work for all of them.

There's another way
Shooting from inside your house through an open window, you mute the sound of the gun outside. The sniper that terrorized Maryland 3-4 years ago did all his shooting from inside the trunk of a car. Anything that contains the sound waves to some extent will reduce the report of a gun - even a firearm. To shoot rimfires in their backyards, some people have bolted car tires together in a six-foot-long bundle. They stick the muzzle of their gun about a foot inside the stack and fire away. The baffling effect of just that simple contrivance makes the sound all but disappear to everyone but the shooter.

An experiment for you!
Take a long and fairly large (four feet long) cardboard box and cut two holes in the opposite sides of the long axis. Make them large enough to stick your hand into - one foot square should do the trick. Pad the inside of this box with thick, disposable fabric. Something the thickness of a moving pad or a heavy but pliable foam works well. Leave plenty of room for the barrel of the gun and for you to sight through. With your muzzle a foot inside, shoot through this homemade silencer with a PCP, multi-pump pneumatic or CO2 gun - the louder the better. Since this device is not attached to the gun it is not a silencer, but it will act like one.

You can't walk in the woods with a four-foot-long cardboard box, hoping to align it on an unsuspecting squirrel at an opportune moment. That's why my legal .22 rimfire silencer cost over $600 when all was said and done. It costs that much to shrink the four-foot-long, 10-lb. padded cardboard box into a six-inch aluminum cylinder that weighs only three ounces.

Airguns are pretty quiet. With some thought, they can be even quieter. But, the powerful ones are always going to be louder than the weaker ones.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

HW97 & HW77

by B.B. Pelletier

There has been some interest in the Beeman HW97 Mk III from the CF-X guy and from POYANCO, plus it's such a nice spring gun that it really deserves a mention. I'm also going to touch on the HW77, which I personally like even better!

The HW97 is a BIG airgun!
If you thought the Gamo CF-X was big, this Weihrauch should change your mind. Although it's just a half-inch longer, it's more than a full pound heavier, and the cocking effort is 35 lbs. - five pounds heavier! However, the HW97 is about standard size and weight for a classic spring rifle. It's the CF-X that's the lightweight. Some of the extra weight is due to the Weihrauch's wood stock, but the powerplant is also larger in diameter, and that, in turn, means the stock has to be broader. The 97 will feel very large to shooters accustomed to the CF-X.

No open sights on the 97
You must scope this rifle because there is no provision for open sights. Weihrauch figured everyone was taking the sights off the HW77 anyway (and they were right), so why even bother putting them on? At the level this rifle sells, shooters are almost entirely scope users. That's not to say there aren't a few who would like open sight options, but they don't come on the HW97.

Be VERY careful with that sliding breech!
Both the HW77 and 97 have very early versions of the sliding breech. Where Air Arms, Diana-RWS and even the Chinese put elaborate anti-beartrap mechanisms on their sliding-breech rifles, Weihrauch has used just the standard crossbolt safety. It blocks only the trigger and has nothing to do with the sliding breech. If that safety fails to engage when the rifle is cocked, and I've seen that happen, a touch on the trigger will send the sliding breech forward with the force of a guillotine! Anyone who adjusts their trigger to a very light release weight on this model is just asking for a digit amputation, UNLESS they practice the safety procedure of never letting go of the cocking handle until the rifle is loaded. That does two things. First, it keeps their other hand occupied so it can't stray to the trigger, and second, if the gun does fire, there is a hand holding the sliding breech in place.

The Rekord trigger
Speaking of triggers, the Rekord trigger on the 77 and 97 is the one all other airgun triggers are compared to. It is the all-time classic spring rifle trigger. Only on PCPs will you find a crisper, lighter trigger, and they only hold back about 10 lbs. of force - this one restrains over 100 lbs.! The Rekord is adjustable from outside the gun and can be set to release with a very crisp pull. It's a good reason to buy a Weihrauch.

The HW77 is a legend for accuracy. Until the TX200 came along, only the FWB124 could equal it (in the world of spring guns, that is). I did not find my 97 to be nearly as accurate as my 77, which undoubtedly accounts for my prejudice, but in fairness, that was at a time before I knew how much Crosman Premiers leaded the bore. I shot them exclusively back then, and it may have been my 97 just needed a good cleaning. There is no reason why an HW97 MkIII would be any less accurate than an HW77.

To summarize
Either the HW97 or HW77 are wonderful spring-air rifles that most shooters would be delighted to own. The stock on the 97 looks a little more scope-friendly, while the HW77 Mk II sold under the Beeman name is more compact, though not much lighter. Compared to a Gamo spring from 1995, these two rifles are light-years better, but compared to the CF-X, they are only somewhat better. Both are classics, and both have the world-famous Rekord trigger that every airgunner should have the chance to try at least once in his lifetime.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Scope mounting height

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we dive into this subject, let me observe that last Friday's posting about the most popular postings to this blog has, itself, become one of the most popular posts! It has over 30 comments already, which is a record for such a short time.

Now, to business. This subject was suggested by DOT, who says, "I'm interested in mounting a scope on a rifle. One thing that does not seem to have been widely discussed is mounting height. If we do not want to remove the iron sights, is it best to go with rings that mount the scope higher so that our line of sight through the scope clears the iron sights? If mounted high, are there concerns about accuracy? If we mount it low, is there a shadow that is seen looking through the scope?"

From 357 Owner
We got such a good answer that I'm printing it here. "Dot, the issue of scope height is pretty much moot unless the iron sights are particularly high, or close to the scope bell. If either are the case, go high. Ghosting has never been an issue with the rifles I have scoped, but I have also never had one with large, high, or obtrusive sights. Accuracy should not be too much of a factor as long as it is sighted for a good medium working range. Practice at ranges used, and adjustment comes easy after a bit. Don't expect good results if you switch between 15 and 50 yards if you go for a high magnification. And don't plan on using the iron sights if you scope [your rifle], as even with high mounts it is a pain to use them effectivly with any speed. Not enough sight picture, and I think it messes with a part of your head switching between glass and iron with any rapidity. I've done my time behind a bit of glass, and iron, and do both well. But not at the same time." He said a lot there, but I would like to add my two cents.

For the CF-X guy
I gave a rather terse answer to the CF-X guy, who wants to scope his new CF-X with the lowest possible mounts. I have learned from experience, as 357 Owner also points out, that the height of the scope over the barrel really makes no difference to accuracy. The key, as he says, is to know your rifle and be familiar with it at the ranges you intend to shoot. Allow me to explain.

The "low-scope" crowd believes that, by getting the scope as close to the bore as possible, there will be less trajectory arc to deal with. This, they reason, makes for a flatter-shooting gun. In fact, it does not! Nothing you do with the sights makes one iota of difference to the drop of the pellet when it leaves the muzzle. The pellet begins dropping the moment it leaves the muzzle, and that drop increases rapidly as the pellet decelerates. Nothing optical can change that. The secret to a good air rifle sight picture is to select the optimum span of the trajectory within which the pellet arcs the least and gives what, essentially, looks like a zero that doesn't change. In other words, sight in for the first zero point at 20 yards, and the second zero point will be anywhere from 27 to 37 yards, depending on muzzle velocity and the pellet used. Caliber makes no difference in this determination, except that .22 pellets are usually slower than .177 pellets. Read more about the best zero points for an air rifle scope in the posting At what range should you zero your scope? and the follow-on to that post, More about sighting in.

You need a scope level!
The higher you mount a scope, the more you need to check level before every shot. B-Square, makes a great one that keeps you on an even keel for every shot. I like this model because it sticks out to the side, where I can see it without taking my eye off the target. The levels that ride the scope cannot be seen unless you move your head, which defeats the purpose of a level. That said, there is no scope that is so low that there isn't some possibility for canting error when sighting. You can struggle to mount your scope as low as possible, butyou'll still need a scope level, unless you get the scope somehow looking straight through the barrel of your rifle!

Do the open sights obscure the target when you use a scope?
Absolutely not. You can even mount a laser on top of your rifle in front of the scope, and you'll never know it's there. One thing about that...any object in the line of sight reduces the amount of light that comes through the scope. If there's too much stuff in the way, things can get dark!

A lower scope IS easier to see!
The new Leupold VX-L scope has a conformal cutout in the objective lens and bell to allow the lowest possible scope mounting. Leupold knows this doesn't make any real difference for accuracy. They tout the scope for lowering the exit pupil to allow the best spot-weld on the comb, while allowing a large objective lens for the best light transmission. This is the only real advantage such a scope gives. Another solution is to modify your existing stock so it fits your face properly. If stockmakers ever wake up, they'll start producing stocks that actually fit right to begin with. Most Theoben and Whiscombe rifles do, but they are the exceptions. This is a good reason to install an adjustable cheekpiece.

Leupold's new VX-L scope allows the lowest possible mounting for the best stock spot-weld.

You don't have to listen to me
Scope mounting is such a personal thing that you should do whatever suits you best. A lower scope is also no less accurate than a high one, so do what pleases you. After all, that's what airgunning is all about!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Most popular airguns and subjects

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I'm reporting about the things YOU seem to like the best. By looking at the responses since this blog began on March 1, 2005, I can tell you the hottest topics among our readers.

The first hit was the blog about S&W pellet pistols. It was clear back on April 7, 2005. We were getting maybe 6 or 7 comments per post, but this one is up to an astonishing 41 and counting! It's bringing in collectors and owners who search for any information about their guns.

On April 18, we talked about two very rare Daisy BB guns and got good response. The next mega-hit was about Crosman Pellgunoil, and all the responses came from readers of this blog. There were 31 comments, and a lot of people either learned something new or confirmed what a wonderful product Pellgunoil is.

Our next smash was the May 26 posting about whether or not longer barrels are more accurate than shorter barrels. That one spawned a handful of related topics about rifling twist rates and diabolo pellets. On June 1, I posted a blog about the range at which you should zero your scope and really kicked over an anthill! That posting got many comments, but it started an ongoing discussion about sighting in a scope that isn't over yet!

Readers apparently LOVE the Walther PPK/S, because that was the next big response. It's still bringing them in from internet searches. About that time, the number of daily comments began to increase, so I changed my criteria for what makes a hit. The next big favorite came on July 13th with the posting about the Crosman M1 Carbine. That one has 46 comments at this time and is still bringing them in! Apparently, the M1 is a gun many people remember fondly!

The posting titled Who needs foot-pounds? started a lively discussion. I think many readers didn't know about Pyramyd Air's energy calculator.

The next bell ringer was the Crosman 1377 multi-pump pistol. Apparently, this is another urban legend that we all had heard or wanted to believe. On August 22, the posting about the Drozd BB submachine gun drew a lot of comments because I said not to shoot steel BBs. EAA, the Drozd importer, is now aggressively telling people that steel is okay! I still think it's a wonderful airgun, regardless of what it shoots.

On September 16, you got pretty worked up about the Daisy 22SG multi-pump rifle. We're still getting comments about that one. Oddly enough, the Sheridan Blue Streak hasn't drawn anywhere near the number of comments as the little Daisy. A few days later, the posting on the Benjamin 392/397 was another favorite! It seems that shooters admire the Sheridan but buy the Daisy and Benjamin.

You liked the five posts about the air shotguns, but the response was nothing spectacular. The post about the Diana RWS 46, however, was a big winner, with 42 comments and counting! I think you like guns that are good but perhaps not mainstream. I say this because I've been pushing the TX 200, which has been received by nothing more than yawns!

The next topic you really liked was Improving accuracy with a spring-piston airgun. I think a lot of you are curious about your guns and would like to know more about what's inside. Then, I told you about My first airgun, and you went wild! Apparently, we need to talk more about the good old days! A lot of you have fond memories of your first airgun, and I will look for ways to bring that topic back several more times.

It came as no surprise that the post on the Daisy No. 25 pump BB gun was also well-received several days later. I was starting to catch on to what you like. Several days later, I posted Like to be an airgun collector? and got the expected good response. Quite a few readers took my advice and bought the Crosman 760 Commemorative. I got one for Christmas! Keep it in pristine condition if you bought it as an investment (mine is). Remember to hold on to the original box and keep it in perfect condition, as it always adds value if you want to sell it later.

The next hot topic was Why foot-pounds is the most meaningful airgun power rating. All of you don't agree with me on this subject, and you aren't afraid to voice your opinions! Daisy's 953 single-stroke rifle was a real hit, with 45 comments and counting. You guys sure love those Daisys! I finally managed to dredge up some interest in Sheridans with the post Three principal Sheridan variations. Most of that was talking back and forth with a couple readers, however. You guys are more of a Benjamin, Crosman and Daisy crowd, in general.

One recent post that astonished me was the one on the Crosman 357 GW kit. I wrote it just to cover a gun I hadn't yet looked at, but the response was very enthusiastic. Apparently, this is another classic with all of you. Another surprise was the posting Can you hunt with a BB gun? It turns out that a LOT of you like to hunt with your airguns. I'll keep that in mind for the future.

Now, for the No. 1 all-time favorite airgun posting! It was the one on the Gamo CF-X. I got trashed by one lurker, but the rest of you came to my defense, which accounted for about a quarter of the 55 comments we received. There's no doubt that this is your current favorite air rifle. Pyramyd Air has sent me one to test, and I've already shot it a few times. I'm very impressed, and my previous comments still hold.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Should you clean a new airgun barrel?

by B.B. Pelletier

We got this question from DOT in response to last week's article about cleaning airgun barrels: "What about newly purchased rifles? What kind, if any, cleaning should be done on those? I have heard that some manufacturers apply some grease or something as some sort of preservative. Maybe these are foreign manufacturers whose airguns are imported. Should the barrel of a new rifle be cleaned?" Excellent question!

Are new barrels dirty?
You wouldn't think the barrel of a brand new airgun would be dirty, would you? Doesn't the factory clean the barrel before they ship the gun? The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. On guns with brass barrels, there really isn't any need to clean, because they don't corrode fast enough to warrant it. Steel barrels are a different issue. They corrode fast and need to be cleaned.

I've seen the Daisy assembly line in Neosho, Missouri, and I didn't see anyone cleaning barrels. They assemble hundreds of guns every day on each one of their assembly lines, and every step is calculated to produce a fine finished product. Of course, they don't make the barrels there, they just assemble them into guns. Maybe the barrels are cleaned where they are made.

Rust is the number one problem
Airgun barrels don't get dirty by shooting pellets. They get rusty! Perhaps 30 percent of all new steel airgun barrels have an appreciable amount of rust in them. If the new owner shoots a lot, the pellets will take care of all but the very worst problems, so we don't notice it that much, but it is there.

The Brits may brag about their quality, but they ship rusty barrels!
Every airgun dealer knows that the factories ship barrels with a little rust in them. In a moment, I'll explain why, but for now reflect on this - it is not uncommon for the barrel of a $1,000 PCP airgun to have rust in it! Not every gun is rusty, but enough are that cleaning the barrel right away makes good sense. In fact, the rust is often not just confined to the inside of the barrel. The outside of the gun can have it, too.

Why the rust?
Bluing causes the rust. I once saw a $3,000 custom air rifle that rusted over its entire blued surface in less than 24 hours. That was an exceptional situation in which the gun was in a foam-lined hard case (the absolute worst for promoting rust!) and the gun had been in a misting rain. The foam in those cases soaks up moisture like a sponge. In this case, it completely rusted every surface of the gun in one day! A dark blue gun became bright orange! So, get your guns out of those foam-padded cases when they aren't being transported.

Bluing is rust!
The term bluing is really incorrect for the finish on modern guns. In most cases, it's really black oxide - and you know what oxide is! It's rust! After a barrel is blued, the manufacturer has to clean it thoroughly to remove the last vestiges of bluing salts. If any salts remain in the barrel, they continue to rust until they are depleted. Once rust starts, it has a life of its own, and the barrel continues rusting until something is done. When a pellet goes down the bore it scrapes out some of the rust. If enough pellets are shot, the rust will completely leave the bore - unless it has formed a deep pit in the metal. A pitted barrel will continue to rust in the pits while being shot. You have to aggressively deal with the rust on guns with pitted barrels.

Rifled barrels are the worst
Conventional rifled barrels are the worst for retaining rust, because it's so difficult to get it all out of the crevices of the rifling. Smoothbores are much easier to clean. Hexagonal rifling, found in many of the guns that shoot both BBs and pellets, is pretty easy, too. So, you should be most concerned about steel barrels with conventional lands and grooves.

Ballistol oil defeats rust and protects steel against further rusting.

How to protect your bore
After you clean your bore the way I recommended in the article on bore cleaning, protect it with Ballistol, a product I discussed back in August 2005 in a blog about protecting and restoring a blued finish. Not only will Ballistol protect the newly cleaned steel surface, it also soaks into any remaining rust and neutralizes it, which is why it is used as a gun lubricant by many armies around the world!

So, DOT, you asked a good question. I hope all of our readers take this message to heart.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Daisy's model 26/572 Field Master - a fun BB gun in the Spittin' Image line

by B.B. Pelletier

Looking exactly like a .22 rimfire pump, the Daisy 26 is a Spittin' Image BB gun!

Today, I'm reminiscing a little with a look at Daisy's second Spittin' Image long gun and the third gun in the series - the little-known Daisy model 26 that became the model 572 halfway through its life. The Blue Book of Airguns, Fifth Edition doesn't say much about this gun - just that it was manufactured from 1964 to 1967 as the model 26. What they overlook is the fact that the gun remained in production as the model 572 from 1968 to 1972. Let's take a look at this decidedly un-Daisy-like BB gun!

Patterned after the Remington 572 Fieldmaster
The first Spittin' Image BB gun was the 1960 model 179 pistol. Made to resemble Colt's Single-Action Army revolver, this was Daisy's only catapult-powered BB gun. Next to come in 1961 was the famous 1894 lever-action rifle that is still in production today, though in a changed configuration. The model 26 Field Master was third in line and, to my thinking, a radical departure from the rest of the Spittin' Image line. The idea of the Spittin' Image guns is to replicate American icon guns - like the SAA and 1894. Whoever heard of the Remington 572 Fieldmaster? If Daisy truly wanted to copy a famous .22 pump gun, they could have used the model 61 Winchester. But, the Remington 572 Fieldmaster was never an icon. I'm sure most owners and Remington will disagree with me on that point!

Fantastic detail!
All the Spittin' Image guns were made to look as real as possible, and the model 26 is probably the best of all in that respect. It really looks like a .22 pump gun - enough to fool people at gun shows. It's a big gun (42" overall), although the plastic stock and receiver keep the weight very low. The BB magazine is in the same place as the cartridge magazine tube on a Remington, and it generally works the same way - spring-loaded inline tube. The tube is loaded through a concealed hole on the right-hand side. It opens only for loading when the spring-loaded captive follower rod is withdrawn as far as it will go. Forty-five shots can then be loaded. Even the sights are incredibly realistic, with a post and bead in the front and an adjustable buckhorn in the rear.

The exact image of a .22 rimfire front sight!

Realistic stock, not-so realistic action
The catch phrase during the 1950s, as far as American rimfire stocks were concerned, was a "full beavertail" forearm. The Remington 572 has one and so does the Daisy copy. In fact, I believe that might have been one of the deciding factors for Daisy engineers when choosing a gun to copy. The bulk of that forearm - a sliding one at that - allows for more room inside the gun's envelope for BB gun parts. The Winchester 61 is markedly slimmer in that respect. This gun feels exactly like a rimfire, except for the lighter weight. However, when it is cocked, the resemblance fades. The forearm is first pushed forward - the reverse of how a .22 pump works. When the limit is reached, the pump handle is drawn back to where it started. Both directions require effort against the mainspring, which is cocked by both motions. When you examine an 1894, you learn it works that same way, though with a lever instead of a pump. When the pump handle is forward, you can see the gear teeth that enable the gun to cock. This is a very complex system and not too repairable when it gets out of order, so these guns are best admired on the wall, rather than in the field.

Pump handle slides forward to reveal a toothed gear track and the mainsprings (underneath).

How powerful?
To my knowledge, the velocity for one of these guns has never before been published, so you will be the first to see it in print. I oiled the gun and shot it several times before chronographing it to give the powerplant every chance to wake up. Because I don't shoot this gun very often, I have to allow more time for the oil to do its work. Eventually, I got a very consistent string of shots between a low of 256 and a high of 269. That's for 10 good shots with modern zinc-plated Daisy Premium-Grade BBs.

Not hard to find
If you want one of these curious BB guns, you should be able to pick one up pretty quick. I've seen excellent ones sell for $30 and new-in-the-box guns go for around for $75. Watch out on the auctions, however. I saw one seller recently who thought he had a goldmine and started the bidding at $125. That's way out of profile for one of these. Be sure the action is still working when you find one in a store. Unfortunately, this gun must be fired, if cocked. There is no way to decock it, so don't do anything you'll regret! Mine is in like-new condition, and I paid $60 for it at the Roanoke Airgun Expo. You can't shoot guns at that show, so I had to take the seller's word that the gun worked. I knew him to be a reputable dealer, so there wasn't much at risk.

As I learn more about airguns, I am fascinated by the lengths some companies will go to make a realistic product. Daisy's model 26/572 BB gun sold for around $15 brand new (1964), yet it was filled with an abundance of engineering and pride. That stuff is timeless and priceless, as far as I'm concerned.